Youngsters’ ideas and $2 million in funding transformed a nearly empty blacktop surface at a Throggs Neck school campus into an oasis.
The Piangentini and Jones Educational Campus dedicated a new playground on Thursday, September 14 after construction changed a 1.96-acre asphalt yard into a much livelier recreational space.
New features of the playground include a garden with flowers that can be used as an outside classroom for science learning, an urban farm, a gazebo structure with rooftop plantings, new play equipment, a turf playing surface for sports and seating area with rocks and trees.
A central feature of the new play area is a running track; and students and members of the New York Road Runners took a ceremonial lap around the track after the ribbon cutting.
The portions of the play area not home to new plant assortments or play equipment are painted in bright colors.
The project, which had a ceremonial groundbreaking in January, was built by the Trust for Public Land with input from students at the schools in the building, currently: Urban Institute for Mathematics, Mott Hall Community School and Bronx Delta School.
The principals of all three schools spoke at the dedication.
Principal Jennifer Joynt of UIM/I.S. 371 said in her remarks that she could envision a future in architecture or community planning for some of the students who helped design the playground.
Principal Maria Rogalle of Bronx Delta School/P.S. 392 said in her remarks that the project began with a conversation with someone from Bronx Health Reach, and she thanked her fellow principals for supporting the project in a team effort.
Principal Benjamin Basile of Mott Hall Community School/ I.S. 467 called the project transformative.
“It really not only transforms this physical space, but transforms the demeanor of the entire campus,” said Basile, adding “An improved aesthetic, in my opinion, makes for a healthier mind.”
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilman James Vacca and the New York Road Runners provided funding for the project.
Diaz, who provided $750,000, called the playground’s rejuvenation a civics lesson.
The borough president told the children that in addition to excelling in academics, he would like them to have opportunities for play, recalling some of his own childhood memories.
“For all of the adults, the reason why we do playgrounds is because…we want our children to have memories,” said Diaz, adding “Our children, through play, develop independence and social and problem solving skills.”
Vacca in his remarks thanked the Trust for Public Land for moving along quickly.
The councilman allocated about $800,000 to the project, with New York Road Runners donating about $330,000, according to a previously published Bronx Times article.
Mary Alice Lee, TPL playground director who also emceed the event, said that that working with the students on the design imparted wisdom and experience.
“I think they had a great lesson in civic engagement, in learning how to be decision makers, and also how to ask their fellow students and neighbors what they would like to see in the park,” she said.