Nation’s Largest Elementary School Celebrates New Playground (NY)

Corona, New York, 4/21/09: A new community playground designed by elementary school students opened today with student choral performances at P.S. 19 at 98-02 Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, Queens. The playground will be available to the school’s 1900 kindergarten-through-fifth grade students and families from the surrounding community. P.S. 19 serves 1,974 students, making it the largest elementary school in the United States.

In the shadow of an elevated train, the space, formerly a cracked asphalt lot, was transformed into a new $1 million community playground with help from The Trust for Public Land (TPL), community sponsor HANAC Corona Beacon, and a design team comprised of P.S. 19’s students, teachers, parents, and members of the community. The playground, funded in part by MetLife Foundation and Rodale Inc., includes community gardens, track, multi-purpose courts, water play spray, trees, amphitheater, benches, unique piece of play equipment, and painted games.

TPL led a three-month participatory design process with students, community members, and Hanac Corona Beacon staff to design the new playground to better serve the needs of the children and the community. The students involved in the playground design created a 3-D model and a presentation to show peers and parents what their new playground would look like.

“Prior to this transformation, students and neighborhood children had to make the most of a cracked asphalt lot without any play equipment. The students were yearning for a place to play during recess and after school. Today, their dream became a reality,” said Andy Stone, director of TPL’s Parks for People-New York City program.

This playground was created in partnership with Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative and is the fourth of 24 community parks that TPL is designing and building as part of this program. Located close to Citi Field and Flushing Meadow Parks, P.S. 19 is ethnically diverse with 61 percent of its population-mostly Latinos, including Ecuadorians, Mexicans and Dominicans-qualifying as English Language Learners.

“The process of the building of this playground has been a collaborative learning experience,” said P.S. 19 Principal Genie Calibar. “The students and the community had the opportunity to express through surveys, done by the group of students that helped in the planning for the playground, to communicate what they wanted for their park. This playground exemplifies the school’s mission, a place where the community enjoys learning in a fun engaging manner.”

The new space is one of 36 community parks and playgrounds nationwide supported by MetLife Foundation, which has contributed $3.1 million to TPL. The playground marks a new investment by Rodale, Inc.

“Safe, accessible places to play are vital to the healthy development of young people and make communities more livable for people of all ages,” said Dennis White, president and CEO, MetLife Foundation. “We are pleased to join TPL, P.S. 19, and the Corona community in creating this important new neighborhood resource.”

The new playground also features two gardens: one garden in the main schoolyard, and an outdoor classroom garden area. The students and community will begin planting in these gardens today, with help from Rodale Inc.

“We are honored to work with Mayor Bloomberg, The Trust for Public Land and others in support of the new playground at P.S. 19,” said Steven Pleshette Murphy, Rodale President and CEO. “We’re proud to bring our commitment to health and wellness to life for the benefit of the vibrant, energetic P.S. 19 community.”

Rodale Inc., publisher of health and wellness lifestyle magazines, including Organic Gardening, is donating seeds and vegetable seedlings, gardening books to enhance teacher’s lesson plans, and bamboo to create a garden trellis. The Organic Gardening team will help the students with the garden.

“The generosity of MetLife Foundation and Rodale Inc., and their employees enables thousands of children now to have a place close to home where they can exercise both mind and muscles,” said Stone.

The Trust for Public Land has created 33 community playgrounds throughout New York City. In partnership with the city’s PlaNYC initiative, TPL is working to transform 185 schoolyards with playgrounds by 2010. The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has created or enhanced more than 250 neighborhood parks in New York City, investing roughly $200 million in land purchases and in the design, construction and stewardship of parks. For more information, visit

MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on its longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Grants support education, health, civic, and cultural programs. For more information about the Foundation, visit

Rodale Inc. is a global media company with a heritage, mission, and authority dedicated to the health and wellness of the individual, community, and planet. Through a broad portfolio of leading media properties, Rodale reaches more than 70 million people around the world through multiple distribution channels, including magazines, books, online, e-commerce, direct-to-consumer, and video. The company publishes some of the best-known health and wellness lifestyle magazines, including Men’s Health, Prevention, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Bicycling, Running Times, and Organic Gardening, and is the largest independent book publisher in the United States, with a collection of bestselling titles, including Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Flat Belly Diet, and Eat This, Not That! Rodale is also a leader in direct-response marketing and has more than 25 million active customers in its database.