Volume 78 - Number 40 / March 11 -17, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Daniel Avila / N.Y.C. Department of Parks and Recreation

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and P.S. 41 students envision ideas for the Greenwich Village school’s playground.

P.S. 41 kids go to the drawing board for playground

By Albert Amateau

A bunch of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students at P.S. 41 huddled around a table in the school library on a recent afternoon to plan the transformation of their big concrete schoolyard on Greenwich Ave. into an ideal neighborhood playground.

Pods and tunnels were a popular choice among the 8-to-10-year-olds; a new rock-climbing wall and a rope-climbing net also scored big. Older boys called for a full-court basketball court; a skateboard ramp received a number of votes, and tracks were in the running for most-desired feature.

One imaginative youngster said she wanted “a fake ship made out of metal that you can climb in.”

A boy said the slides should be made of metal, “because plastic gives you shocks.”

Teachers at the session favored trees, grass, a shady gazebo, game tables and benches. They voted for half-court basketball with the younger children in mind.

The P.S. 41 event on Fri., Feb. 27, was part of a $111 million project by the city’s Department of Parks and Department of Education and the nonprofit Trust for Public Land to increase the amount of public space by opening a total of 290 schoolyards across the city in park-starved neighborhoods to public use after school hours, on weekends and during school breaks.

Sixty-nine of the schoolyards have already been open to the public with a minimum of construction, and the rest of the 221, including the P.S. 41 yard, will be redesigned by their school communities — children, parents and teachers — and open to the public by 2010.

P.S. 41 Principal Kelly Shannon opened the library to the workshop, where Joan Keener, of the Trust for Public Land, guided the student workshop. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe noted that Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC program called for ensuring that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

“Schoolyards are the new frontier for park creation,” Benepe said. “The only other space left are brownfields — abandoned industrial sites — old infrastructure, like the High Line, and in Brooklyn and the Bronx we have parkland — former landfill that has never been developed for public use.”

Nancy Hasely and Christina Reimer, landscape architects with Stantec Consulting, who will draw up the construction documents for the P.S. 41 project, were on hand to hear the students’ suggestions.

“It really is a great way to design parks — really generated by the kids who will use them,” Reimer said.

At one point, Benepe and Igor Ioustous, custodian engineer at P.S. 41, started talking about the mechanics of making the new playground open to the public when school is not in session.

“He’s the guy who will make it happen,” Benepe said, referring to the school custodian.

The new playground will be opened, closed and maintained by the custodian and his staff. Each site has been allocated additional maintenance funds to cover the cost of extra hours and light repairs. The public access to the P.S. 41 yard will be from the gate in the fence along Greenwich Ave. The gate will be locked when school is in session, opened after the last after-school program ends and locked again at dusk. During weekends and school breaks, the playground will be open from 8 a.m. until dusk.

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