The Trust for Public Land and New York Road Runners Announce Partnership to Build New York City School Community Green Playgrounds

The Trust for Public Land and New York Road Runners today announced a new partnership to fund the transformation of New York City public school playgrounds into state-of-the-art, green, community playgrounds. The nonprofit organizations announced their partnership at CS 154 in Harlem, one of three sites where construction on new playgrounds will soon begin.

“If a cracked asphalt slab is a playground, then I am Meb Keflezighi,” joked Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development for The Trust for Public Land, who also served as New York City Park Commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Our children deserve playgrounds with trees, fields, and plants, so they can run, play, and be active. Our cities need this green infrastructure, also. It makes our neighborhoods more livable, helps clean the water and air, and improves resilience to major storms, by capturing storm water instead of funneling it into streets and down storm drains,” Benepe added.

“New York Road Runners is thrilled to launch this partnership with the Trust for Public Land and we look forward to building many new playgrounds that students in our free NYRR Mighty Milers program, as well as children from the surrounding community, can enjoy for years to come,” said Michael Capiraso, NYRR President and CEO. “Every child deserves the opportunity to play and run in safe, fun and highly functional community environments."

More than 215,000 students are served nationally through NYRR’s free youth running programs and events, including 115,000 in New York City’s five boroughs. NYRR supports free community programming for people of all ages—from kids to seniors—designed to get them moving toward a healthier lifestyle, including NYRR Open Runs, a community-based initiative that brings free weekly runs and walks to local neighborhood parks in New York City, NYRR Striders, a free, weekly walking program for older runners, high school training programs, group training sessions, and more.

“We are excited to partner with The Trust for Public Land and pursue our common goal of making New York better today, in order to promise a better tomorrow,” said Peter Ciaccia, president of events for New York Road Runners and race director of the TCS New York City Marathon. “While runners from across the globe can race the TCS New York City Marathon through the city’s streets once a year, these playgrounds will let kids stay active in their own backyard 365 days a year.”

To launch the partnership, New York Road Runners contributed an initial $1 million to help fund the design and construction of playgrounds at three school campuses: CS 154 (Harlem), PS 120 (Flushing, Queens), and the Piagentini and Jones Educational Complex, which houses three schools on a shared campus in the Throgs Neck neighborhood of the Bronx (PS 392, IS 467, and IS 371).

These three initial projects will be completed by the end of 2017. Ultimately, NYRR is planning on funding playground development in all five boroughs over the next few years.

The new playgrounds will replace dilapidated, arid blacktop that currently provides students’ only opportunity to play outdoors on school grounds.

The new playgrounds were designed through a participatory design process led by students themselves. At each participating school, students survey their peers as part of a class project to learn the most popular playground features. Students then work with landscape architects to integrate the student wish list into the final design. The participatory design process teaches many valuable skills, including environmental science, budgeting, and negotiation.

The playground at CS 154 will have a “Night and Day” theme that incorporates many student-developed design elements, including an image of families dancing the night away in the shadow of the nearby Apollo Theater.

Additionally, the three playgrounds include 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. The Trust for Public Lands receives public funding from the Departments of Education and Environmental Protection, the School Construction Authority, the City Council and the Manhattan Borough President, the Queens Borough President and the Bronx Borough President.

“Perhaps a future marathon champion will be touched by this donation from New York Road Runners, but that is not the goal. What's most important is that all children have the opportunity to develop an active and healthy lifestyle. This will surely benefit the children, families and our communities,” said Meb Keflezighi, winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon.

The Trust for Public Land has helped develop 189 playgrounds in New York City. In addition to serving students, all playgrounds in New York City are open to the public on weekends and after school hours, providing opportunities for both children and adults to be physically active. Nearly 3.3 million New Yorkers live within a ten minute walk of one of TPL’s playgrounds.