Little Neck community celebrates opening of new playground at local public school

Barry Grodenchik PS 221
Lead photo courtesy of Councilman Grodenchik’s office with additional photos from The Trust for Public Land

A Little Neck public school celebrated the grand opening of its student-designed playground.

The P.S. 221 community joined elected officials, The Trust for Public Land and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Monday, Oct. 21, to celebrate the new $1.5 million playground, which includes trees, a turf field, two running tracks, play equipment, game table and green infrastructure elements.

According to the Department of Education, students can use the playground during school hours and it will be open to the community until dusk on weekdays. P.S. 221 parent Adriana Aviles recently started a petition to keep it open during the summer and weekends as per Mayor Bloomberg’s “Schoolyards to Playgrounds” initiative.

Councilman Barry Grodenchik, Borough President Melinda Katz, DEP and The Trust for Public Land helped secure project funding, with additional support from the School Construction Authority.

“When I first visited P.S. 221Q, the principal showed me the schoolyard, which was nothing but a sheet of asphalt. I told her there and then that the school should have a real playground and that I would work to make it happen,” said Grodenchik. “I am so pleased that a beautiful new playground has opened here at P.S. 221Q. The children of eastern Queens deserve only the best, and that is exactly what this facility provides.”

The playground’s construction was made possible through The Trust for Public Land’s NYC Playgrounds Program. In collaboration with the city, the nonprofit’s program has had a hand in designing and building more than 200 school and community playgrounds across the five boroughs since 1996. The program has added more than 160 acres of playground space citywide.

“I want to congratulate The Trust for Public Land and the entire P.S. 221Q community, particularly the student designers, for creating a beautiful and environmentally-friendly school playground,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “The green infrastructure elements installed in this amazing new play space will absorb nearly 1,000,000 gallons of stormwater annually and improve the health of Little Neck Bay.”

In addition to a traditional playground space, it will also function as an outdoor classroom for students to explore nature, learn environmental science and engage in physical education and after-school activities. Through the design process, student designers gained skills including budgeting, negotiation and planning.

During the groundbreaking ceremony in May, student designers revealed their process which involved them giving input on playground theme and play areas, creating concrete design plans, measuring the available space, choosing furniture and creating small-scale models.

The Trust for Public Land included its hallmark green infrastructure design elements in the playground, including the turf field and permeable pavement. The nonprofit teamed with DEP to create these elements, which reduce stormwater runoff that can flood streets and sewer systems and allow untreated water to end up in rivers and bays.

P.S. 221’s playground will absorb hundreds of thousands of gallons of water annually and also includes newly planted trees to bring shade and better air quality. The Trust for Public Land has plans to build similar playgrounds in the Flushing Bay and Bronx River watersheds.

See more photos from the ceremony below. Photos are courtesy of The Trust for Public Land.