Students and parents advocate for play street at P.S. 166 in Astoria

THE COURIER/Photos by Angela Matua

Have some play every day.

This was the message that students and parents had at the Community Board 1 meeting on Tuesday when they implored the board to approve an application to create a play street at P.S. 166 in Astoria.

The school, located at 33-09 35th Ave., is home to 1,200 elementary school students who only get recess twice a week in a small courtyard, “roughly the size of a typical Astoria apartment,” according to Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president Freddie McConnell.

“Without real play during the school day, the impact is felt long after the final bell rings,” McConnell said. “We see it as we watch our children break free after dismissal. We feel it when we try to get them to sit still for just a few minutes to wrap up their math problems, read a book or even to eat their dinner.”

The PTA met with School Construction Authority President Lorraine Grillo this summer to discuss a possible rooftop playground but were advised to advocate for a play street instead due to the obstacles they would face to break ground.

Dominic Stiller, a CB 1 member and father of a student at P.S. 166, presented the PTA’s plan to block off 34th Street between 34th and 35th avenues from 10:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., noting that 60 other schools in the city have play streets. Police would add a barricade on the 34th avenue entrance to the southbound block and another barricade on the northbound entrance of the block. The 114th Precinct would also add a barricade on the southern end on 35th Avenue.

The sidewalk would be open to pedestrians at that time.  Stiller also added that although the street would be closed to cars, if parked cars needed to leave the block, a chaperon would blow a whistle and guide students to the sidewalk to allow cars to exit.

The application was approved by CB 1 but one member, transportation chair Robert Piazza, had some concerns about the location of the play street. Piazza noted that Kaufman Astoria Studios, located at 34-12 36th St., closes access to cars on 36th Street and uses 35th Street to park production trucks.

“You’re directing traffic because of Kaufman Astoria Studios, four or five blocks out of the way  for a play street,” Piazza said. “The other part of it is, Kaufman Studios is using 35th Street north as their parking lot. Those 18-wheelers that you see all over the place? They’re sitting there on both sides of the street. When you drive down 35th Street you feel like your mirror’s going to touch those wheels.”

The students and parents erupted in cheers when the board overwhelmingly approved the application. According to McConnell, the application has to be sent to the Department of Health by Nov. 1 and, if approved, would be sent to the 114th Precinct and Department of Transportation for approval. The play street will take effect during the spring of 2016 if all parties approve the plan.

“Thank you very, very much,” McConnell told the board as he held his daughter.

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