Crown Heights schools open new playground
by Benjamin Fang
May 29, 2019 | 786 views | 0 0 comments | 796 796 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What was once an asphalt lot for a trio of schools in Crown Heights has transformed into a multi-purpose playground for the community.

Last Thursday, elected and government officials joined The Trust for Public Land, Brooklyn Nets executives, and local students to cut the ribbon on a new $2 million playground.

The playground features new basketball courts, tennis courts, running track, turf field, gazebo, outdoor classroom and more. The lot is located on a campus shared by MS 354 and the KIPP AMP elementary and middle schools.

The space also has green infrastructure elements that can capture up to 1 million gallons of stormwater annually.

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said on paved asphalt lots rainwater just goes into the street, often overwhelming the sewer system and causing flooding. The overflow can also pollute local waterways.

“Instead of having runoff go out of the site, it actually stays and gets retained here,” Sapienza said, “and reduces pollution.”

Built through the nonprofit Trust for Public Land’s NYC Playgrounds Program, the Crown Heights play area was largely funded by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Vital Brooklyn initiative.

The $1 billion program will transform eight playground, 22 community gardens and four recreational centers in central Brooklyn by 2020.

“This wonderful playground is a place you guys can play, relax, bring your families and enjoy,” said Leslie Wright, NYC Regional Director for the state Department of Parks.

The project was also partially funded by Barclays Center Cares, the charitable foundation arm of the Brooklyn Nets. In October, the foundation hosted its second annual gala, raising funds that helped build the Crown Heights playground.

Brett Yormack, CEO of BSE Global, which manages the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, said parks are important because they provide space and opportunity for exercise, recreation and community building.

“It is our hope that this playground will empower and motivate local youth to stay active, and perhaps inspire a love of basketball,” he said. “Or who knows, maybe even produce a future NBA star.”

BSE Global also brought the Brooklyn Nets Basketball Academy to host a free clinic for the students on their new courts. They also left behind new basketballs to “support Brooklyn basketball culture.”

Next month, BSE Global will send 30 employees to paint a new mural at the playground as part of its annual Give Back Day.

“I hope those who live here in Crown Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods will take full advantage of this beautiful, terrific space,” Yormack said.

District 17 Superintendent Clarence Ellis recalled at the event that when he visited the school five years ago, they let people park on the lot “as a courtesy.”

But soon, Ellis said he became annoyed when cars packed the lot to the point where vehicles were in front of the basketball courts.

“It looked like Costco’s parking lot at that point,” he said.

MS 354 Principal Monique Campbell said she had been trying for years to transform the lot into a space more conducive for the students. When the Trust for Public Land approached her about the idea, she agreed “without hesitation.”

Campbell also praised the organization’s process for involving students in the design. She said participating students had the opportunity to engage in “real-world experiences and develop life skills.”

The design process included visiting other playgrounds, discussing what students wanted to see at the space, and making tough decisions.

“What you see is evidence of the work done by all the students,” she said.
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