By Rebecca Henely
Educators, area politicians and more than 1,300 elementary school students sang songs, threw baseballs and danced along to the New York City Police Department Drum Corps Tuesday as they celebrated the opening of their new school playground at Emanuel Kaplan/PS 229 in Woodside.
“The whole neighborhood is better because you have this playground,” PS 229 Principal Dr. Sibylle Ajwani told the children. “So enjoy it.”
Construction on the new playground began at the end of April and cost about $150,000, Ajwani said, which caused a little bit of problem for the students.
“We had to lock the schoolyard,” Ajwani said, “which was very difficult as we use it for dismissal and arrival.”
The new playground has three different parts. The first, which faces 51st Road and 67th Street, features a jungle gym with a slide. The second part, which faces Maurice Street, has a variety of spots for sports games, including a baseball diamond, a basketball court with baskets, soccer goals, a smaller four-way basket for kids in wheelchairs and many games like hopscotch. The third part is a mural, which the students at PS 229 designed under the guidance of artists Marilyn Gibbons and Beth Milonopoulos.
The group responsible for most of the work on the playground was the nonprofit Out2Play. Andrea Wenner, its executive director, said the organization works to build playgrounds for schools throughout the five boroughs. They help raise funds from parents and private sources, hire the architect and oversee the design, and hire the construction firm. The suggestions of the children and the community are included in the process.
“We oversee the whole thing from start to finish,” Wenner said.
She said Out2Play has designed 80 playgrounds, and this is one of 40 they will build this year.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said the new playground would help students spend their energy and give them an opportunity to play with their friends.
“Every year the PS 229 community gets stronger and stronger,” she said.