|The white arrows indicate where playgrounds can be found in New York. (courtesy of:|
Like Robert Moses, Mayor Bloomberg also sees the importance of playgrounds. On November 30th, Bloomberg opened the 200th “Schoolyard to Playground” at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights.
“PlaNYC, our long-term sustainability agenda, identified public schoolyards that could be opened up year-round in neighborhoods most in need of open space,” said Mayor Bloomberg in the November 30th press release.
“Schoolyard to Playground” is part of Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative to enhance the quality of life for New Yorkers. The $87.6 million program is a collaborative project between the Parks Department, the Department of Education, and the non-profit Trust for Public Land that seeks to promote physical activity and to ensure children have access to safe and clean playgrounds.
Less than half of New York City’s public elementary schools have usable playgrounds, according to the Trust for Public land website. PlaNYC has set the goal of converting 258 schoolyards in all five boroughs by 2013. Upon completion, the playgrounds will be maintained by the Department of Education.
According to the administration’s press release, 71 percent of New Yorkers now live within a ten-minute walk of a park or playground.
Today, there are more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreation facilities in New york City, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation. In 1895, a state law was passed that dictated, “Hereafter no school house shall be constructed in the City of New York without an open-air playground attached or used in connection with the same.” Seward Park, at Hester and Essex Street on the Lower East Side, was opened in 1903 and became the first municipally-built playground in the country (prior parks had been privately sponsored). From 1934 to 1960, during Robert Moses’ reign as Parks Department Commissioner, the number of playgrounds in the city grew from 119 to 777.
Community Board 7 has been advocating for schools to open their playgrounds to the public after hours, on weekends, and during the summer. Even with Riverside Park and Central Park nearby, the residents who live along Amsterdam Avenue in the 80s still have a long walk to reach outdoor recreational spaces. “We are still unable to open school playgrounds to the public because of the Department of Education policy of requiring a custodian to be on site to clean up and lock up the playground after hours,” said a spokeswoman from CB7, “and we don’t have the funding right now.” According to a DNAinfo.com article about CB7’s initiative, it costs between $50,000 and $100,000 a year to maintain a school playground after school hours.
Even though 300 acres of new parkland have been added since 2007, according to the PlaNYC website, New York City still has “less open space per person than almost any other major city in America."