The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards on Sept. 29 unveiled a new playground at P.S. 98 in Douglaston. The unveiling marks the completion of around four months of construction. In addition to Richards, community leaders and P.S. 98 students and teachers were in attendance for the unveiling.
The playground was designed by third- and fourth-grade students in December 2020. Due to the fact that the design phase took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, TPL adjusted by having the students create individual design packets and showing them off in Zoom meetings rather than by working with small groups in classrooms.
“The education our kids get outside the classroom is just as important as the education they get inside it,” Richards said. “And for the students of P.S. 98, their new playground will be an incredible social and emotional classroom for them as they grow into the future leaders of Queens.”
TPL has public-private partnerships with the New York City Department of Education as well as the New York City School Construction Authority. Throughout these partnerships, TPL has built 223 playgrounds across each borough of the city, including 70 in Queens.
“Trust For Public Land’s mission is to connect everyone to the outdoors,” said Trust for Public Land NYC Playgrounds Program Director Mary Alice Lee. “When we hear from the principal and student designer that on opening day the students and teachers were all smiles and able to enjoy their beautiful, safe play space, then we know we’ve done our job well.”
Former Councilman Paul Vallone played a big role in getting TPL to construct the playground at P.S. 98. After hearing that TPL was looking to find a viable site in northeast Queens to build a new playground, Vallone reached out to the organization and recommended P.S. 98. The school was entirely on board with such a project and open to the idea of working with the students, parents and community to design the park and keep it open after school as well as on weekends. Additionally, Borough President Richards’ office devoted $2.1 million to the project.
Over 280 community schoolyards across the United States have been transformed into more vibrant spaces of play for students as well as the rest of the communities by TPL. TPL believes that transforming schoolyards across the country into shared public parks by 2030 could present a common-sense and cost-effective solution to America’s park equity problem.
According to TPL, opening all public schoolyards during non-school hours would put a park within a 10-minute walk of nearly 20 million people. This would solve the problem of outdoor access for 20% of the nation’s 100 million people who don’t currently have a park close to home.
TPL’s goal is to turn blacktop playgrounds in schoolyards into vibrant, verdant spaces that also act as neighborhood parks outside of school hours. These Community Schoolyards projects are meant to improve the health, equity and climate resilience of neighborhoods across the country and transform the lives of students, families, teachers and the whole community.