Student Input, September Opening for PS 33 Playground

A schematic of the playground shows what area kids will be enjoying by fall 2018. | Photo courtesy of the Trust for Public Land

BY RANIA RICHARDSON | It was an exciting day for the greening of Chelsea as students and faculty from PS 33 Chelsea Prep, at 281 Ninth Ave., btw. W. 26th & 27th Sts., participated in the groundbreaking for a $1.16 million state-of-the-art playground. The neighborhood space will be located on the W. 26th St. side of the public elementary school, and is scheduled for completion by September.

“School playgrounds play a vital role in our children’s physical, intellectual, and social development,” said PS 33 principal Cindy Wang, in an email statement sent to coincide with the March 29 groundbreaking. “Our school playground is not only a place where students come together for recess, it is an extension of our communal learning environment where our children learn to share, collaborate, problem solve, and expand their creativity and imagination.” The current playground, she noted, holds fond memories for many students and their families — but the upgrade will provide a resource for the community “to enjoy for many years to come.”

Also in attendance at the Mar. 29 event were representatives from the Trust for Public Land, the New York City Council, and the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), entities that worked with the school to realize the plan for a modern, environmentally beneficial playground.

Gone are the jungle gyms and swings sets of yore, to be replaced by modern climbing structures and other equipment in shapes that stimulate the imagination. There will be a two-lane running track, basketball practice hoops, a synthetic turf field, and soccer goals. Game tables and a stage will complement the gym elements, and an al fresco classroom will enhance school activities. Existing trees will remain and new ones will bring better air quality to the neighborhood. Larger tree pits and permeable pavements will be added.

Like all other New York City playgrounds, it will be open to the community outside school hours: on weekends, at the end of the day, and during school closings, providing access to physical activity to nearly 30,000 Chelsea residents who live within a 10-minute walking distance.

“Once completed, the new green infrastructure at PS 33 will be able to absorb over 365,000 gallons of storm water each year and help to improve the health of the nearby East River,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, whose agency manages New York City’s water supply. (From a watershed that extends 125 miles from the city, DEP provides water for the 8.5 million residents of the five boroughs.)

Green design components are a hallmark of the Playgrounds Program of the Trust for Public Land, a nationwide organization that creates parks and protects land, especially in and near cities where urban dwellers can experience nature where they live.

On Mar. 29, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (front row) and PS 33 students got their hands dirty when they broke ground on the playground project. In the back row, DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza,Mary Alice Lee, director of the NYC Playgrounds Program for the Trust for Public Land, and Carter Strickland, director of the Trust for Public Land. | Photo courtesy of the Trust for Public Land

Since 1996, the Trust for Public Land’s NYC Playgrounds Program has created almost 200 playgrounds throughout the five boroughs, working with the city to meet its standard of 2.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. With 73 percent of low-income neighborhoods failing to meet the goal, the Playgrounds Program is especially important.

Proud of the nonprofit’s collaboration with New York City, Carter Strickland, the Trust for Public Land’s New York State director, observed that former asphalt lots are being transformed into vibrant, green play spaces for children.

The Playgrounds Program includes student participation in the design process through brainstorming and hands-on education of related subjects such as science, math, and architecture. All 628 schoolchildren at PS 33 had the opportunity to be part of the project.

In a statement to Chelsea Now, Principal Wang called it “an immersive, hands-on learning experience,” for students who were “challenged to incorporate many different disciplines in their work, but particularly incorporated STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] to help develop a one-of-a-kind playground and public space for our community.”

“Students, parents, teachers all came together, brainstormed and pooled their ideas,” said NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (whose district includes the PS 33 area). An allocation of $750,000 from the Council’s capital discretionary budget will help fund the renovation.

“This is going to be a place where kids have fun. It’s going to be a place where they want to be. And that’s what we want in our schools — inside and outside,” he said.

Move along, monkey bars: PS 33’s playground will feature modern climbing structures and other equipment in shapes that stimulate the imagination. | Photo courtesy of the Trust for Public Land

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