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Gym in every school by 2021: de Blasio

In Ridgewood, a group of first-graders at PS 81 got out of class to see the mayor’s press conference announcing a $385-million plan to build gyms in schools that don’t currently have them.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Michael Shain

Mayor de Blasio confesses that as a kid he never much liked gym, but that’s not stopping the city from launching a $385-million plan to put a gym in every school by 2021 and make physical education available for all.

“If you’re exposed to physical activity when you’re young, there’s a good chance you stick with it,” he said. “If you don’t get that, there’s a good chance you never do.”

More than half the city schools do not have the facilities for students to run or play sports indoors, officials said, even though a largely ignored state law requires all schools to offer physical education. De Blasio estimates that some 200 schools will need gyms built or renovated to make universal phys ed a reality.

The plan, announced before a group of unusually well-behaved first-graders at PS 81 in Ridgewood Tuesday, will be coupled with a similiar promise to bring air conditioning to every city classroom within the same time frame, the mayor said.

De Blasio was not a fan of gym growing up, he told reporters. “They always wanted you to climb a rope or something,” he said.

But the mayor’s current gym habits — traveling several times a week from Gracie Mansion to a gym in Park Slope, his old neighborhood, for a workout — has become a political football of late. These days, said de Blasio, he sees the value of “anyone, especially a decision-maker, need[ing] physical activity to keep themselves focused and balanced.”

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