The Trust For Public Land joins Council Member Rosie Mendez and New York City to unveil state-of-the-art green infrastructure playground in Manhattan

East Village asphalt lot transformed, will serve 200 preK-5th grade students and surrounding community

Green infrastructure will capture approximately 400,000 gallons of stormwater a year and help improve the health of the East River

Before and After Photos available on DEP’s Flickr page

The Trust for Public Land, Council Member Rosie Mendez and New York City today unveiled a state-of-the art-playground on a formerly cracked asphalt lot at PS 15 The Roberto Clemente School, in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Designed with help from the school’s students and built in partnership with the Department of Education, the Department of Environmental Protection and the School Construction Authority, the one-third of an acre playground will include green infrastructure components that will allow the space to capture approximately 400,000 gallons of stormwater runoff each year, which will improve the health of the East River. The playground will also operate as a public open space during weekends, holidays and school vacations.

“Before the renovation, the students at PS 15 played on a cracked asphalt schoolyard. 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 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 unique because they are designed by the users – the very students and neighbors who will be enjoying the park for years to come.”

"Transforming the asphalt schoolyard at PS 15  into an environmentally-friendly playground provides schoolchildren and community residents with a safe space to play that also cools our city, cleans our air and will help to improve the health of the East River,” said DEP Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.

"This new green playground is a real treasure for our students and the City," said Deputy Schools Chancellor Elizabeth Rose.  "It is a wonderful place to play and exercise and has provided hands-on learning opportunities for our youngsters.  Watching our students and families partner with City agencies in this special way is a great source of pride for the DOE.  We look forward to deepening our commitment to better serve our communities through future environmental sustainability projects and joint efforts with the Trust for Public Land."

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez stated: "The P.S. 15 Roberto Clemente School is the beneficiary of a public-private partnership that brought a renovated environmentally friendly playground to my community in record time.  This project would have needed to wait another fiscal year to enable me to allocate the entire funding.  The reality is that without the partnership of the Trust for Public Land, we would not have been able to break ground when we did.  The Trust for Public Land worked with DOE, the community, the school and its' children to envision and design a recreational multi-use area.  In addition, they worked with the School Construction Authority and DEP to create a state-of-the-art green playground that will benefit the community at large."

The nearly $1 million playground renovation was funded through an innovative public-private partnership, with private funds raised by The Trust for Public Land from Charina Endowment Fund, and public funding from the Departments of Education and Environmental Protection and the School Construction Authority. NYC Council Member Rosie Mendez generously allocated $500,000 towards the project.

Community participation is a cornerstone of The Trust for Public Land’s NYC Playgrounds Program, and students spent three months helping plan the new playground. The Trust for Public Land worked closely with students from PS 15 to create a new schoolyard that features an artificial turf field, 2-lane running track, basketball courts, net climber with safety mats, play house, water fountain, trees in pervious pavers, benches, boulders, turf pods, a stage, game tables, color seal art designed by the students, an outdoor classroom and a mural.

Additionally, the playground includes green infrastructure elements, such as specialized plantings and shade trees, porous pavement and permeable pavers. Also included in the construction is a new synthetic turf field made of woven polyester filaments and featuring a broken stone storage layer and perforated distribution pipes to promote infiltration.

Such green infrastructure design elements are a hallmark of The Trust for Public Land’s playground work. These features reduce storm runoff that can flood streets and overwhelm sewer systems, allowing untreated water to end up in rivers and bays. Each playground absorbs hundreds of thousands of gallons of water annually and includes 20-30 new trees that bring shade and better air quality to their neighborhoods. In New York City, the similar playgrounds are being designed in the Flushing Bay, East River and Gowanus Canal watersheds.

Since 1996, The Trust for Public Land, working with the City, has helped transform more than 180 public schoolyards from asphalt lots to spaces which offer safe and durable play equipment, athletic facilities and gardens. The program has added more than 150 acres of additional playground space serving the nearly 3.3 million people who live within a half-mile of one of the sites. The need is critical in a city where 73 percent of low-income neighborhoods fail to meet the city’s standard of 2.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.  

The Trust for Public Land has partnered with the DOE and DEP to build eight other green infrastructure playgrounds:

  • PS 261K, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
  • JHS 218K, East New York, Brooklyn
  • PS 65K, Cypress Hills, Brooklyn
  • JHS 157Q, Rego Park, Queens
  • JHS 162K, Bushwick, Brooklyn
  • CS 300X Tremont, Bronx   
  • P.S. 75Q, Ridgewood, Queens
  • J.H.S. 185Q, Flushing, Queens

The Trust for Public Land has done similar projects in other cities, including Philadelphia, Newark and San Francisco.

Attendees at Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony included DEP, The Trust for Public Land Senior Vice President, City Park Development Director Adrian Benepe, The Trust for Public Land NYC Playgrounds Program Director Mary Alice Lee, New York City Council Member Rosie Mendez, PS 15  Principal Irene Sanchez, and the students themselves.