The Trust for Public Land (TPL), in partnership with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and New York Road Runners (NYRR), celebrated the opening of a newly renovated community schoolyard at P.S. 223Q in Jamaica on Monday, Nov. 1.
The schoolyard will be open to the community during non-school hours and will serve over 10,000 residents whose homes are within a 10-minute walk of the space.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said the P.S. 223Q schoolyard is a “first class, state-of-the-art” recreational resource for southeast Queens.
“This investment will better enable both schoolchildren and local residents to enjoy the outdoors and be physically active,” Richards said.
The Queens Borough President’s Office allocated $1 million in capital funding to the project. Richards said they were proud to work with DEP, NYRR, Councilwoman Adrienne Adams and The Trust for Public Land.
Carter Strickland, vice president of the Mid-Atlantic region and New York state director for The Trust for Public Land, said that in addition to serving the entire community, the schoolyard has a new outdoor classroom so that students have the opportunity to safely study while connecting with classmates.
“Parks and playgrounds are essential for the mental and physical well-being of New Yorkers, and this project is a key part of our work to increase park equity and resiliency by increasing open space in neighborhoods that lag behind like Queens Community District 12, which has less than half the park space per person than city standards,” Strickland said.
The schoolyard was designed using The Trust for Public Land’s unique participatory design process with teachers and students, and will include an artificial turf field, running track, basketball practice hoops, tennis courts, play equipment, new tree plantings, game tables and benches, a green-roof gazebo, a musical play area, a playhouse and an outdoor classroom with turf pod.
Green infrastructure elements, like permeable pavers, will capture 1.8 million gallons of stormwater each year, helping to reduce neighborhood flooding and improve the health of nearby Jamaica Bay.
This area of southeast Queens is low-lying, former wetlands, and is plagued by frequent flooding, including most recently during the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which caused deaths in the area. Green infrastructure that absorbs rain can contribute to the solution, and the community playground includes stormwater control elements made possible in part through DEP’s contribution of $775,000.
These features reduce stormwater runoff that can flood streets and overwhelm sewer systems, allowing untreated water to end up in rivers and bays. Each playground absorbs hundreds of thousands of gallons of water annually and includes new trees that bring shade and better air quality to their neighborhoods.
The schoolyard was funded in part through DEP’s Green Infrastructure program.
“For more than a decade DEP has been investing in ‘green’ strategies to divert stormwater from the sewer system in order to reduce neighborhood flooding and improve the health of local waterways,” DEP Commissioner Vince Sapienza said. “Thanks to the environmental stewards at P.S. 223, their new green playground will capture nearly 2 million gallons of stormwater annually — which will in turn help to improve the quality of life in southeast Queens.”
For nearly 25 years, TPL has guided thousands of students and parents to make the most of their schoolyards, putting 217 community schoolyards where they are needed most. Under TPL’s NYC Park Equity Plan, the organization is planning to build 100 more in neighborhoods that have crowded parks; TPL’s data shows that communities of color have 33% less park space per capita in NYC.
TPL’s community schoolyard transformations include agreements between a school district and other local agencies to allow the community to use the space when school is closed. According to new research from TPL, open access to all public schoolyards across the country during non-school hours would put a park within a 10-minute walk of more than 19.6 million people, including 5.2 million children, who currently lack access.
New York Road Runners has been partnering with TPL since 2016 to transform NYC community schoolyards into state-of-the-art, green, community playgrounds.
Through its partnership with NYRR, the two organizations are pursuing a common goal of making NYC better today in order to promise a better tomorrow.
Kerin Hempel, CEO of NYRR, said opening the newly renovated community schoolyard at P.S. 223Q and highlighting its partnership with The Trust for Public Land is a fantastic way to kick off the week leading into the 50th TCS New York City Marathon that will be held on Sunday, Nov. 7.
“Together with The Trust for Public Land, we are striving to create a better tomorrow across the five boroughs of New York City, and we are thrilled to bring this new schoolyard to life today to positively impact this great community in Queens,” Hempel said.