New Brooklyn Playground Dedicated (NYC)

Brooklyn, NY, 6/20/06: A new playground dedicated today will offer a safe place for kids to play and honor the memory of a fallen community police officer. Students at Brooklyn’s P.S. 217, who were also the designers of the new playground, were joined by community members and representatives from The Trust for Public Land (TPL), the New York City Department of Education (DOE), and Flatbush Development Corporation.

The new park is a $1 million investment in the community through the City Spaces program of The Trust for Public Land made possible by lead private funding from the J.M. Kaplan Fund and a two-to-one funding match by the Department of Education. The P.S. 217 playground is one of 25 community parks being created citywide through a partnership of TPL, the DOE, the School Construction Authority, community sponsors, and private donors.

A team of third- through fifth-grade students, teachers, and parents met for three months to design the one-acre space. Prior to the construction of this playground, students had only a bare lot and one piece of play equipment on which to play. Today, they celebrate the transformation of the cracked asphalt lot into a community park that includes basketball courts, an artificial turf field, running track, play equipment, a play spray, and trees.

“No other program gives kids the tools and ability to make such a substantial change for their school and their community,” said Andy Stone, New York City Programs Director of The Trust for Public Land. “The process of designing this playground gave kids the opportunity to exercise their minds, and now they can use it to exercise their muscles.”

The event included a memorial for Officer Francis Hennessy, after whom the playground is now named. Officer Hennessy served for eight years at the 70th precinct and died in the line of duty January 10, 2006. His family, fellow officers, and the NYPD band were on hand for the event.

The new park will serve the school’s 1,200 students as well as children and families in the surrounding community with recreational programming provided through Flatbush Development Corporation. There are nearly 3,000 children under the age of 18 within a quarter-mile of the school.

“As the principal of a school with a large immigrant population, it is particularly gratifying to me that we now have such a beautiful playground where children can be children. No matter where they are from, no matter what language they speak, all can engage in the universal language of play,” said Franca Conti, principal of P.S. 217.

“The Kaplan Fund is in the park-creation business, and The Trust for Public Land is the ideal partner. They do a great job of bringing top-notch facilities to neighborhoods where they’re really needed,” said Peter Davidson, chairman of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.

The Trust for Public Land has built 16 successful community parks throughout the city, including four under the recent partnership with the DOE. Construction is underway at the next three schools.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. The City Spaces program targets New York City neighborhoods least served by the current park system. For each $1 million playground, funding is raised by TPL from private donors, foundations, and corporations, and is matched two-to one by the DOE. 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