By Bill Parry
Students at an overcrowded Long Island City elementary school located at 48-09 Center Boulevard are not getting enough exercise because their playground is too small to accommodate proper recess.
Members of the PS/IS 78 Parent Teacher Association and Community Board 2 joined City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) last Friday calling on the city’s Department of Transportation to provide a safe play space after the agency rejected their application for a “playstreet” for a third time.
“Our students deserve play time,” Van Bramer said. “Kids need time to run, play and burn off energy. Not only is it beneficial for their physical health, but it helps them focus in the classroom as well. This partial, temporary street closure would not negatively impact our community and would improve quality of life for students and families of PS/IS 78. I don’t understand why DOT has denied the playstreet application.”
The request, filed last spring, calls for a street closure on 48th Avenue between Center Boulevard and 5th Street on school days between 10:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. DOT denied the request again last week. Without a playstreet, PSIS 78 students will continue to have recess only twice a week because the playground can not adequately accommodate the school’s 700 students.
“Following two reviews, DOT denied a playstreet on the south side of 48th Avenue, midblock to Center Boulevard, due to safety concerns based on the street layout, (a) nearby parking facility, and frequent commercial traffic,” a DOT spokesperson said. “Typically, DOT implements playstreets on one-way streets due to the predictable nature of vehicular movements and clear sigh lines.”
Due to the shortage of proper play space, the PTA pays $80,000 annually to a third party to walk some students to a play space off site for recess. Not only is this a major expense, the travel time cuts into students’ play time, leaving them with just 10 minutes or less.
“The parent community at PS/IS 78Q has been rallying together for 18 months in trying to secure a partial street closure for 1.5. hours each day,” PS/IS 78Q Co-President Genevieve Bernier said. “The DOT has rejected our requests for a third time, with inconsistent explanations and their suggestion to have our students walk across Center Boulevard into our City and State parks, with no physical boundaries except water, is much more dangerous that the 1.5 hour road closure we seek.”
Van Bramer urged DOT to reconsider the application or to work with the school and PTA to find a solution that provides play space for the PS/IS 78 students.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr