"Green" Playground At P.S. 261 in Brooklyn Will Manage Stormwater

September 19, 2013
New York

New York City and The Trust for Public Land today announced a unique partnership to build up to 40 new school playgrounds that will include green infrastructure to capture stormwater when it rains, thereby easing pressure on the city's sewer system and improving the health of local waterways. The announcement was made during a ribbon-cutting celebration held at Brooklyn's P.S. 261, where the new playground will manage nearly half a million gallons of stormwater annually.

Participants included The Trust for Public Land's Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President, and Marc Matsil, New York State director, Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland, Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, City Council Member Stephen Levin, and Hideki Shirato of The Mizuho USA Foundation.

The first three playgrounds to be completed this fall are all located in Brooklyn, at P.S. 261, which drains into the Gowanus Canal, and at J.H.S. 218 and P.S. 65, which drain into Jamaica Bay. Over the next year, the partnership will build up to ten additional playgrounds that will improve the health and cleanliness of the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, Westchester Creek, the Bronx River, Flushing Bay, and Jamaica Bay. This new program grew out of a long-standing partnership between The Trust for Public Land and the City of New York. Under Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 initiative, older asphalt schoolyards are being transformed into vibrant playgrounds and community parks, helping ensure that every child in the city has a safe outdoor play space within a ten-minute walk.

"The Trust for Public Land has been steadily decreasing the amount of asphalt in city schoolyards and replacing it with trees, gardens, permeable surfaces, and turf fields," said Mary Alice Lee, director of The Trust for Public Land's New York City Playgrounds Program.

"We are pleased to partner with The Trust for Public Land and contribute up to $5 million a year towards green playground projects that will manage millions of gallons of stormwater, reduce local street flooding, and improve the health of our local waterways," said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. "These projects will also help raise awareness in the next generation of New Yorkers about the connection between planted beds and fields that absorb stormwater and a cleaner harbor."

"I am delighted to join The Trust for Public Land and our City agencies in creating 40 new environmentally friendly playgrounds," said Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. "Under the Mayor's PlaNYC, we have worked hard to preserve our natural resources. We have opened 221 schoolyards to the community during after school hours and on weekends, and we have 345 school gardens. Just last year, we opened the High School for Energy and Technology, which offers students a curriculum that incorporates conservation and preservation."

"We are committed to conserving our natural resources for future generations and this agreement goes a long way to cementing this commitment," Deputy Chancellor of Operations Kathleen Grimm said. "The Department of Education has included projects in our Capital Plan to promote a 'greener' City and the new agreement with The Trust for Public Land is a continuation of our commitment. I want to thank The Trust for Public Land for its support."

Depending on the size and layout of the space, and the needs of the particular school, the green infrastructure components could include small green roofs on storage sheds, rain gardens, rain barrels to capture stormwater that falls on roofs, tree swales with pervious pavers, and artificial turf fields with a gravel base that allow stormwater to pass through and be absorbed into the ground. The green infrastructure components will capture at least the first inch of stormwater that falls on the playgrounds each time it rains. Each site will be open to the public after school and on weekends until dusk, seven days a week, as part of the Schoolyards to Playgrounds program.

Public funding for the playgrounds' construction was provided by the NYC Department of Education, the Department of Environmental Protection, and New York City Council Members Stephen Levin (P.S. 261), Charles Barron (J.H.S. 218), and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (P.S. 65), who each contributed $200,000 towards these playground sites. The charitable foundation of Japan's Mizuho Bank, Ltd., the Mizuho USA Foundation, dedicated to supporting community development programs that contribute to the strength and vitality of urban neighborhoods in New York City, provided private funding for P.S. 261 in honor of Merlin E. Nelson for his service to The Trust for Public Land and Mizuho. MetLife Foundation, which has supported close to 20 playgrounds and gardens throughout the five boroughs, provided significant private funding for P.S. 65. The Trust for Public Land's Playgrounds Committee funded the J.H.S. 218 playground.

"We have enough asphalt in New York City," said Council Member Stephen Levin. "That's why I'm proud to support the new playground at P.S. 261 that will provide a healthier, greener place for our children to play. I want to thank The Trust for Public Land, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the New York City Department of Education, and the New York School Construction Authority for working together on this initiative."

"In the advent of climate change-and increased storm events, combining inner city recreation and new playgrounds where needed-with the latest green infrastructure technologies that captures rain water, is a win-win for a cleaner harbor and reduced local flooding in our neighborhoods," said Marc Matsil, The Trust for Public Land's New York State director.

To date, The Trust for Public Land's New York City program has designed and/or built 178 playgrounds across the five boroughs. Prior to The Trust for Public Land's commitment to PlaNYC, the organization had created 25 playgrounds at New York City public schools through a pilot program with the NYC Department of Education, which oversees the School Construction Authority. Based on the success of those pilot projects, this new partnership was able to easily integrate green infrastructure into the playground renovations, of which the playground at P.S. 261 in Brooklyn is the first to be completed. New York City's public schools serve 1.1 million students.