New Playground for Hunts Point School and Community (NYC)

HUNTS POINT, BRONX, N.Y. 6/24/2009: Today, students celebrated the new community playground they helped design at Hunts Point Middle School/Hyde Leadership Charter School at 730 Bryant Avenue in Hunts Point, Bronx. The new playground will be available to the school’s students and to families from the surrounding community.

The Hunts Point Middle School houses four schools in total: The Hyde Leadership Charter School (K-8); Pre-K 48; The Vida Bogart School for All Children; and the M.S. 201 Star Academy (now known as M.S. 424). The campus population will soon grow to an estimated 1,500.

The site is surrounded by the Hunts Point Water Pollution Control Plant, the Oak Point Freight Yard, and one of the biggest food distribution centers in the world. It is also isolated from the rest of the Bronx by the Bruckner expressway. The 60,000 truck trips each week to the various industrial centers throughout the area have contributed to increased rates of asthma throughout the neighborhood. Cancer, obesity, and diabetes rates are also much higher in Hunts Point than they are in either the Bronx or New York City on a whole.

The lot at Hunts Point Middle School/Hyde Leadership Charter School has been transformed into a new $1 million community playground with help from The Trust for Public Land (TPL), community sponsors TASC, Graham Windham, and City Year, and a design team comprised of students, teachers, parents, and members of the community. The playground, funded in part by Credit Suisse Foundation, includes a multi-purpose turf field, half court basketball, separate play equipment for 5-12 years olds and 2-5 year olds, a performance area, volleyball, sprinklers, game tables, benches, running track, trees, and plants.

TPL led a three-month participatory design process with students, community members, and TASC, Graham Wyndham, and City Year staff to design the new playground to better serve the needs of the children and the community.

“The students were yearning for a place to play during recess and the community wanted a park. Today, their dreams 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 twelfth of 28 community parks that TPL is designing and building as part of this program.”In the current electronic age, children tend to lose the opportunity to play outside. With this new playground, the Hunts Point community gains a safe, state-of-the-art playground environment that will ultimately promote physical activity, healthy athletic competition, and overall good health,” said John C. Hughes, Ed.D., Principal, The Hunts Point Middle School. “Thanks to The Trust for Public Land for making this possible.”

The playground at Hunts Point Middle School/Hyde Leadership Charter School is one of five that have been sponsored by Credit Suisse, which contributed funds from the Credit Suisse Americas Foundation, but also rallied staff in support of the effort, ultimately resulting in nearly 4,000 employees contributing. The end result was a gift from Credit Suisse of $1.66 million to The Trust for Public Land to fund the five playgrounds, located in Harlem, Washington Heights, Hunts Point, Bensonhurst, and Crown Heights. Credit Suisse helped fund renovation of a sixth Brooklyn playground in 2006 and their total support to TPL is $2 million.

“We are proud both as individuals and as employees of Credit Suisse to be part of this extraordinarily successful partnership,” said Lewis Wirshba, Chief Administrative Officer for the Americas for Credit Suisse. “Our staff feels personally invested because they gave from their own resources and time to help make this happen.”

“The generosity of Credit Suisse Foundation 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 38 community playgrounds throughout New York City. In partnership with the city’s PlaNYC initiative, TPL is working to transform 185 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.