New Playground for Bronx Public School and Bronxdale Community

Today students at three J.H.S. 135/Frank D. Whalen Campus schools celebrated a new community playground they helped design in Bronxdale, Bronx. The new playground, created in partnership with Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative, will be available to the school’s 1,100 students and families from the surrounding community.

Previously a mostly vacant schoolyard, the lot at J.H.S. 135/Frank D. Whalen Campus has been transformed into a new $1 million community playground, led by The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and a design team of students, teachers, parents, and members of the community.

“The students were yearning for a place to play during recess and the community wanted a park. Today, those dreams are a reality,” said Mary Alice Lee, director of TPL’s New York City Playgrounds program.

J.H.S. 135/Frank D. Whalen Campus is a unique three-school facility with an emphasis on environmental education located at 2441 Wallace Avenue in the northeastern Bronx. J.H.S. 135 has a diverse student body of more than 1,100 sixth-through-eighth students. TPL led a three-month participatory design process with students, community members, and staff from the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation and Phipps Community Development Corporation to design the new playground to better serve the needs of the children and the community.

The playground, constructed by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, features an artificial turf field, running track, basketball courts, handball area, tennis, play equipment, fitness equipment, game tables, trees, benches, a rain garden, and an outdoor classroom that doubles as both a garden area and a performance space. A nature mural reflects the schools’ emphasis on the environment.

“As the newest addition to the 135 campus, the students of Pelham Academy now benefit from the wonderful partnership that has been forged by The Mayor’s Office, Chancellor Klein, The Trust for Public Land and our City’s schools,” said Principal Anthony Rivera, Pelham Academy for Academics and Community Engagement. “While the students and faculty at our campus can enjoy it, our neighborhood children and families also benefit from this wonderful new element to our community. With all of the different components to this park, there is something for just about everyone to enjoy.”

“For years the yard was simply a blacktop. Children played in the dumpsters. Now, the yard is a welcoming place to play and congregate. It represents a new direction on the Frank D. Whalen campus that began 4 years ago with the arrival of three new schools, Aspire Preparatory, Bronx Green and Pelham Academy,” said Principal Emily Becker, Bronx Green Middle School. “Principals Emily Becker, Steven Cobb, and Anthony Rivera worked together to advocate for a model yard and playground. Of special note is the garden space, which was requested by the student designers at Bronx Green. These students learned in their work in the Bronx Green garden the value and serenity of the natural environment.”

“Our students and school community are ecstatic about the new playground. Transforming a space that once resembled a neglected prison yard into a wonderful place to gather, play and learn is a gift our school and community will use and appreciate for years to come,” said Aspire Preparatory principal Steve Cobb. “Many thanks to the Trust for Public Land for doing such an excellent job.”

The playground at J.H.S. 135/Frank D. Whalen Campus was created in partnership with Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative and is the nineteenth of 28 community parks that TPL is designing and building as part of this program. When complete the parks will serve 380,000 New York City students and residents.

The playground was funded in part by Charina Endowment Fund.

The Trust for Public Land has created 45 community playgrounds throughout New York City. In partnership with the city’s PlaNYC initiative, TPL is working to transform 151 schoolyards into 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.