New York City and The Trust for Public Land Complete New "Green" Schoolyard in Queens

Student-designed "green" schoolyard will serve 674 K to 5th grade students

November 24, 2015
Queens, New York

Today the City of New York and The Trust for Public Land celebrated the completion of a new green infrastructure playground in Queens with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at PS 161, The Arthur R. Ashe, Jr. Elementary School. The new playground at PS 161 is the latest to emerge from a successful partnership between The Trust for Public Land, the NYC Department of Education and School Construction Authority, in which new playgrounds are designed to serve as part of the city's green infrastructure.

Special attendees at today's ribbon-cutting ceremony included The Trust for Public Land's Marc Matsil, New York State director, New York City Councilmember Ruben Wills, PS 161's Principal, Jill Hoder, and the school's students themselves. Located in the South Richmond Hill section of Queens, The Arthur R. Ashe, Jr. Elementary School, PS 161, is a large urban public school serving 674 children primarily from families who have recently immigrated to the United States. PS 161 also serves physically challenged children who receive services on site in their classrooms. Named in honor of late tennis great Arthur Ashe, PS 161 has an ongoing relationship with the New York Tennis Association and annually hosts The Big Apple Games.

Working in partnership with PS 161's students, parents, teachers, and neighborhood residents, The Trust for Public Land transformed a 1-acre asphalt schoolyard into a safe and attractive green space for healthy recreation and learning. Through the use of green infrastructure elements, such as the turf field, trees, and pervious pavers, the playground will also serve as part of the city's water management and flood control infrastructure, helping to absorb storm water and mitigate CSO events that pollute local waterways.

"The children at PS 161 lacked a real playground. Partnering with school officials and community residents, The Trust for Public Land conducted a participatory design process to engage students, parents, teachers, and neighborhood residents in designing playground improvements that would best address the needs and preferences of the school's students and families," said Mary Alice Lee, director of The Trust for Public Land's New York City Playgrounds Program. "Each of The Trust for Public Land's playgrounds is so special because they are designed by the users-the very students and neighbors who will be enjoying the park for years to come."

The new schoolyard at PS 161 features a turf field for soccer, a tennis court, basketball courts, trees, play equipment, garden and an outdoor classroom. There is also a special memorial section for PS 161Q student Laura Palma, who died unexpectedly last year.

"Today is a wonderful day in The Arthur Ashe, Jr. (PS 161Q) school's history. The park at PS 161Q has been a neighborhood park, as well as the school park, for many years," said PS 161's Principal, Jill Hoder. "It has been our dream for there to be a green field for the children to run and play on during recess and after school. Today that dream has come true. It is with heartfelt gratitude that I take this moment to thank The Trust for Public Land NYC Playgrounds Program, MetLife Foundation and Councilman Ruben Wills for helping us to make our dream come true."

Funds for the project were contributed by lead private funder MetLife Foundation and several public funders, including the NYC Department of Education, the NYC School Construction Authority and New York City Council Member Ruben Wills.

"The new playground at PS161Q is the 22nd one MetLife Foundation has supported in New York City through its long partnership with The Trust for Public Land," said Dennis White, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation. "We applaud the PS161Q and South Richmond communities for their involvement in designing a green space that increases recreational and learning opportunities while protecting the environment."

To date, The Trust for Public Land's New York City Playgrounds Program has designed and/or built 183 playgrounds across the five boroughs. Prior to The Trust for Public Land's commitment to PlaNYC, the organization had created 25 playgrounds at New York City public schools through a pilot program with the NYC Department of Education, which oversees the School Construction Authority.