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PS/IS 78 Parents, Local Leaders, Call For Play Street Adjacent to School After City Rejects Multiple Requests For It

Local leaders and PS78 parents calling for a play street adjacent to the school.

Feb. 2, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

PS/IS 78 parents and local leaders are demanding a “play street” adjacent to the overcrowded elementary school at 48-09 Center Blvd. for students to play during recess—a request, despite multiple attempts, that has been shot down by the city.

The school’s PTA says in spite of three applications over the course of 18 months to the Department of Transportation’s play streets program, an initiative that closes streets to traffic for hours at a time to allow for children to play, the agency has returned a “no” answer every time, with the most recent response given last week.

The applications, which were approved by the 108th Precinct and Community Board 2 (as required by the DOT), ask for a play street on a portion of 48th Ave between Center Boulevard and 5th Street, flush against the school building, from 10:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The school’s PTA is asking for this chunk of 48th Avenue (to the end of the first median) to be closed for an hour and a half on school days. The PS78 school building is immediately against the proposed portion.

Genevieve Bernier, co-president of the school’s PTA, says a play street would add a desperately needed space for children to play, as the current playground in front of the school can only fit 54 kids at a time while the school currently houses over 150 students from Pre-K to the first grade—more students than it can currently hold.

“More than half of our children are without a safe and convenience space to play,” Bernier said.

Bernier added that the proposed play street can easily hold all 150 students at once, and that the 108 Precinct has pledged to be on site with barricades to help keep the children safe.

Yet the DOT has given“inconsistent explanations” as to why it won’t accommodate a play street, ranging from its potential effects on parking, to loading docks, and to children jumping over the median, according to Bree Chambers, who is also co-president of the school’s PTA.

“Every time we come up with a fix to one of their problems, they come up with another one,” Chambers said.

The school’s current playground, which can only hold 54 students at a time.

In the meantime, the PTA has been paying an astounding $80,000 a year to a third party to make sure all students at the lower school and middle school get daily recess. Without the the third party, students would only get recess one to two times a week.

The DOT has suggested that the school take the students across the street to Hunters Point South Park in light of the rejected play street proposals, but the PTA and local leaders say Center Boulevard is dangerous for small children to cross, and that the large public park could pose other risks to the students.

“This is a very common sense, easy to do, low-cost, and low effort decision that could dramatically increase the well being and the health of the children in this community while also keeping them safe,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Long Island City).

Sheila Lewandowski, vice chair of CB2’s transportation committee, supports the school’s push.

Overhead view of the proposed play street, outlined in red. (Google Maps)

“These young people need to be active for an hour and a half a day,” Lewandowski said. “A relatively quiet street just makes sense, and it will help provide a better education for our children.”

In a statement, the DOT said it denied a play street on 48th Avenue mid block to Center Boulevard due to safety concerns involving a nearby parking facility and commercial traffic making its way down the proposed area.

“Typically, DOT implements play streets on one-way streets due to the predictable nature of vehicular movements and clear sight lines,” a spokesperson for the agency said.

The DOT did not respond to questions about taking another look at the proposed play street after their last decision.

“This partial, temporary street closure would not negatively impact our community and would improve quality of life for the students and families of PS/IS 78.” Van Bramer said. “I don’t understand why the DOT has denied the play street application.”

PS78 at 48-09 Center Blvd.

email the author: [email protected]

20 Comments

Anonymous

Closing down the street when there is a large park across the street is ridiculous, good for the city for saying no.




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DO

Not responding to Anonymous, above, whoever that is. (Might be a Russian-inspired bot.) The school’s second and third graders need more leg room, safely. It is dangerous to cross a two way street. See below, please.




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strike

Shepherding a group of students across Center Blvd. to the park seems doable. I see little children and their teachers crossing much busier streets in Manhattan all the time. Closing off a street to create a playground would disrupt a lot of traffic. Also, there are people living in apartments above the street. They might not want to hear the noise (joyous though it may be to some) of children at play.




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Anonymous

The parents don’t want their kids exposed to undesirable people in the park. That’s the real reason they object, but for obvious reasons can’t express.




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hmmm

Can they not stagger the recess period across a few time slots for the 150 kids? sounds like they would need 3 time slots. So perhaps the first group can start their day with recess, then the next group, and then the last could go? This was how my school growing up made it work for a full k-12 group of students to all enjoy the gym facility (and when we had play street, it still was done by class, not everyone altogether). And where do they play on rainy/cold/snowy days? Could they not use that “rainy day” space a few times a week for some kids? Seems a bit ridiculous to be complaining over something you already have and just don’t know how to use.




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Basta

Ugh, no thank you. NYC is a city for ADULTS. Why can’t people understand this? Why can’t all the LIC parents understand this? You want to raise your kid in NYC? Fine, but he or she will be a city kid. Nothing wrong with that, just deal with it. Otherwise, move to the suburbs and get the experience you are looking for. But stop trying to make NYC something it is not. You are ruining everything that once made this city great.




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MurrayparkNorthparent

City for adults? It’s a city for all. And that ‘all’ includes adults WITH CHILDREN. If you want your adults only city, make some more money and move to midtown, dick




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brooklynmc

That entire area in front of the school should be a little park with a playground and they should remove the stairs that strollers can’t go down, scooters can’t go down and little kids and parents alike have been tripping on. Bad design.




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DO

As a resident/owner of Citylights, the first building–a co-op–in the area, the building who welcomed the primary school, we are proud of the lowered visiting area and gardens as a felicitous adornment by the architect, Renzo Piano. The school entry is “out of traffic” and the lowered visiting area is naturally used for safe gathering by parents and children–a mini piazza. The design deserves respect.
A safe play area at the front of the building seems natural for running games–stickball!–and the garage of Citylights has a back entry, easy to do. Go for it, in my opinion.




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Logic

Why when they rebuilt that whole playground a couple years ago did they not just expand its footprint abutting the school? There is plenty of room in the area between the building and the sidewalk on Center to have a larger playground or close off some of that space to allow more children to play. That giant walkway is pointless.




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Anonymous

There is a jewel of a public open space just across from the school, but crazy overprotective nut job parents think crossing the street is so perilous and fraught with danger, and the park itself “poses other risks” to students, like cancer-causing daylight, benches that attack and kill, and hard surfaces that don’t scream “Good job!” when trod on. What a bunch of kooks parents are today.




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Ro

Before you make bombastic comments like the one above, know your facts. This school houses all the lower grades, PreK to 1st grade, and the recess period is very short due to pre-negotiated Teacher’s Union time schedules. Therefore, getting 4 to 6 year old children to and from the parks in Gantry State Park takes up most of the recess period. You obviously don’t how long a 5 year old takes to put on a jacket, let alone 40 kids at a time. This leaves the children with very little time to play.
I am not sure if you are a New Yorker but street closures have been common practice in our crowded city for a very long time.




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brooklynmc

The guy who uses a very broad brush to paint all parents as “overprotective nut jobs” with examples of “cancer-causing sunlight”, evil benches and hard surfaces is just a sad product of todays think they know it all, anonymous internet attack dogs living in fantasy land where they are the king. Speaking of “kooky”.




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Basta

Wow, Ro, is that a serious comment? Kids take too long to put on their jackets? My god, how do you even make it through the day? Even the most mundane tasks must present an “epic” struggle for you.




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Anonymous

before they built this school they should have thought of a playground next to the school for the kids like every school has — but I guess more money in people’s pockets is what it comes down too –




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Angie

Its true! that’s why the school was placed inside a condo building and not given its own separate space.




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DO

Unfortunately, there was a built in playground/play area for the school in the building that didn’t work out. The building is a co-op, and more difficult to find residents for in 1997, than now, with many retirees, and ironically, teachers and young families as first resident owners. For twenty years, we have and had many residents who have kept a lower rental for the school, with joy. New families welcome!




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Dave

I went to this elementary school from 1998-2003 and there was a play area on the roof of the school (it was very well gated so no student could fall…but if students were playing with any sort of ball, it could easily go over). Is this the play area that didn’t work out?




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DO

Yes, Dave: The school agreed finally that it didn’t work.
Glad you are an alum! And still care about the school.
Now is the time to make a play area larger than the fenced pone, and suited for first through 3, on 48th Avenue. There is a “No Parking, school days/hours” sign already there. BTW, I believe fourth through sixth go to the larger school a few blocks north on 5th Street.




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