Groundbreaking for New NYC Playground

Brooklyn, New York, 8/11/04Today the nonprofit organizations the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Groundwork, Inc. were joined by students and staff from P.S. 328 in East New York to break ground for a new playground. The new park?funded by the New York Life Foundation, the Charles Hayden Foundation, and donations from other foundations and individuals?will feature basketball courts, an artificial turf field, a three-lane track, play spray, mosaic, benches, and trees. The half million-dollar investment will transform what is now a half-block of asphalt serving as a makeshift parking lot.

Over the last five months, students from P.S. 328 and Groundwork met regularly with a team of professional designers and architects to design the playground. They surveyed members of the community and visited other sites to generate ideas and develop a plan. The playground will be used by the children of P.S. 328 during school hours and will be open to the neighborhood when school is closed. Construction is expected to be complete in spring 2005.

“The children of East New York have worked hard to design what will be a wonderful addition to the community,” said Mary Alice Lee, manager of TPL’s City Spaces program. “Construction will begin immediately to transform this space for the children in our area who want, need, and deserve a safe, accessible place to play.”

“We wanted to take on this project because we thought it would engage the community in something positive,” says Richard Buery, founder and executive director of Groundwork. “It’s been a positive experience for everyone. There’s no way this playground project could have succeeded without the help and support of the principal and staff at P.S. 328, and the funding and technical support provided by Trust for Public Land.”

“I’m so excited, because I know that when this playground is completed next spring, it will be more than just a nice place to play. It will represent something the entire community can take pride and ownership in, because they are the ones who designed it,” said Douglas Avila, P.S. 328 principal.

The Trust for Public Land led the participatory process for the design of the playground and covered the $500,000 cost of design and construction. TPL secured lead funding from New York Life Foundation and the Charles Hayden Foundation, as well as other donations from foundations and individuals. Through their City Spaces program, the Trust for Public Land develops new community playgrounds in city neighborhoods underserved by the traditional parks system. City Spaces is a public-private partnership, involving TPL, public agencies, and local organizations. Through City Spaces, 15 new community parks have been created in Newark and New York City and another six are in the works.

“The New York Life Foundation is proud to support the development of the P.S. 328 playground, which will offer students a safe recreational environment and has fostered hands-on learning, teamwork, and a sense of pride in the community,” said Peter Bushyeager, president of the New York Life Foundation.

“I think this is a great idea, and long overdue,” states Rebecca Scott, a resident of the Unity Houses, a public housing complex located just up the street from where the new playground will be located. “As a parent, it’s important to me that my children have a clean, fun, safe place to play. This neighborhood has needed something like this for a long time. I’m just grateful that someone is finally paying attention.”

“It seems like a lot of people don’t really care what’s going on around here,” says Kimberly Schuler, another neighborhood resident. “We are starting to take on a lot of things on our own. This playground shows that if we pull together and work together, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.”

Schuler and Scott are part of a group of 25 local residents who recently began volunteering with the community-based Groundwork, Inc. to organize and improve their community. Groundwork, whose office is just two blocks from P.S. 328 and the new playground site, is a nonprofit organization that runs literacy-based summer camps and after-school programs in three East New York public schools, including P.S. 328. In March, Groundwork launched its community organizing initiative, which took on the playground project.

“The kids did everything, from soup to nuts. They did an initial neighborhood survey to see what people wanted in the playground, they visited other playgrounds around the city to come up with ideas, and after they came up with two possible designs, they circulated those plans along with a questionnaire in order to get more feedback. There were community meetings to gather input. They really went out of their way to get everyone involved,” said Avila.

East New York is a geographically isolated section of Brooklyn, inhabited predominantly by African-Americans, Latinos, and Caribbean immigrants. It is one of the poorest communities in New York City, with over 60 percent of the children living below poverty levels. With 36 percent of its population age 19 and younger, East New York has one of the city’s highest concentrations of youth.

Background Information: The Trust for Public Land: Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land is the only national nonprofit working exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well-being. TPL connects people to land through parks, recreation areas, working lands, and natural open spaces ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL’s Parks for People initiative works in cities across America to ensure that everyone?in particular every child?enjoys access to a park, playground, or open space.

Groundwork, Inc.: Founded by Richard Buery and Andrea Schorr in 2002, Groundwork’s mission is to help neighbors build powerful communities. The group identifies small neighborhoods, typically public housing developments and the blocks that surround them, and works with community members and institutions to provide high-quality educational programs and support services to the children and families who live there. After-school and summer programs for elementary and middle school children give them the skills and confidence they need to become engaged, educated citizens. Work experience and college preparation programs for teenagers teach youth to become leaders while guiding them to success in academics and in life. Programs for adults offer parents and other community members the resources they need to support their families and build organized community power. Major support for Groundwork is provided by the New York State Department of Education, The Blue Ridge Foundation New York, the Robin Hood Foundation, The Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps), the Goldman Sachs Foundation, the Altman Foundation, the Charles Hayden Foundation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Pinkerton Foundation, the New York Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and many other corporations, foundations, and individuals.

New York Life Foundation: Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the New York Life Foundation ( is the major vehicle through which New York Life Insurance Company channels contributions to national and local nonprofit organizations. Through its Nurturing the Children initiative, the Foundation supports organizations, programs and services that target young people, particularly in the areas of mentoring, safe places to learn and grow, and educational enhancement opportunities. Through Volunteers for LIFE, its national community involvement initiative, New York Life also encourages volunteer participation by its employees, agents, and retirees.

Charles Hayden Foundation: The Charles Hayden Foundation seeks to promote the mental, moral, and physical development of children and youth ages three to 18 in the New York and Boston metropolitan areas. The foundation focus is on those institutions and programs serving youth most at risk of not reaching their full potential, especially youth in low-income communities.