The Trust for Public Land (TPL) unveiled the newly renovated community schoolyard at P.S. 37Q The Cynthia Jenkins School on Wednesday, Oct. 12. This project came in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, New York City School Construction Authority and funders, including Queens Borough President Donovan Richards’ office and the New York City Council.
This project began at the recommendation of the borough president’s office in 2020 shortly before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students and their parents and staff members from P.S. 37Q, as well as community members from TPL’s NC Playgrounds Program, had the privilege of designing the schoolyard.
According to NYC Playgrounds Program Director Mary Alice Lee, the pandemic forced TPL to get more creative in working with the students to get designs. Normally, members of the organization come into the school and work closely with the students on the designs. However, with the pandemic forcing the students to remote learning, TPL came up with an adapted curriculum by having each student involved create their own design packages through Microsoft Teams before mailing them to the school. A schoolwide survey was then conducted, with the design team compiling the results and adding the most popularly voted features to the final design.
“We really appreciate the extra work the students, teachers and Principal [Lakisha Jacobs] went to in order to make this happen,” Lee said. “It is so wonderful to see a cracked asphalt lot be turned into this beautiful oasis. Seeing the joy in the kids’ faces at seeing the completed schoolyard was very beautiful. We’re happy to be able to build it.”
Some of the new community schoolyard’s features include a running track, volleyball court, outdoor classroom and play equipment, as well as green infrastructure that will manage around 330,000 gallons of storm water a year. The green infrastructure will help to keep pollution out of Jamaica Bay.
Lee said the total cost of the entire project added up to about $1.5 million. However, $1.2 million of the costs were covered thanks to funding courtesy of the Queens Borough President’s office and former Council Member Daneek Miller. The funding paid for all the construction work.
In addition to contributing to the design of the schoolyard, P.S. 37Q students recently held a planting day there with TPL. They ended up planting shrubs, flowers and herbs there.
This new schoolyard will be open beyond school hours, allowing for everyone in the community to access it to play, hang out, relax, or do other things there. With approximately 10,000 residents estimated to live within a 10-minute walk from the school, TPL is optimistic about the new schoolyard getting a lot of use from the community.
“One of the great things about this is that [the schoolyard] is open to the community,” Lee said. “It’s important for kids in the community to have a place to play and others a place to hang out. This schoolyard presents a great place for people to come together and make friends.”