Kids design playground

The renovated M.S. 424 playground, designed by Hunts Point students and the Trust for Public Land, is Elizabeth Gilot’s favorite new hang out. Photo by Victor Chu

Ever play football on asphalt? Ouch. Bryan Edwards has. Football. Baseball. Basketball. The rising eighth grader is a sports fanatic. So Edwards was jazzed when the Trust for Public Land asked students at M.S. 424 to help design a new playground and mini-field in Hunts Point. On Wednesday, June 24, the playground opened and Edwards sprinted to play football on turf.

“Football!” Edwards shouted.

TPL, in collaboration with the Parks Department and students, has completed 38 school playground renovations so far. M.S. 424 also houses the Hyde Leadership Charter School, P.S. 352 and the Vida Bogart School. The old playground at M.S. 424 boasted few amenities. The new playground includes a colorful jungle gym and sparkling basketball hoops. It’ll remain open during the summer. Prior to the TPL renovation, energetic M.S. 424 students suffered skinned knees and elbows; other students stayed inside.

“The old playground wasn’t fun,” Hyde Leadership administrator Ken Kern said. “Not much to do.”

In 2008, the School Construction Authority used the old playground as a staging area for a M.S. 424 elevator renovation. TPL went to work in March.

“The kids were so patient,” Hyde Leadership aid Elizabeth Hittenmark said.

On June 24, rising ninth grader Anajess Alvarez addressed a crowd of students, parents and neighbors. Alvarez, 14, played softball and ran track for Hyde Leadership; the school is set to add a ninth grade in September.

“We jotted ideas on paper,” Alvarez said. “We made a design.”

When Alvarez saw the completed playground, she gasped.

“Wow!” Alvarez exclaimed.

M.S. 424 principal John Hughes tanked TPL and sponsor Credit Suisse.

“We have a beautiful new playground in Hunts Point,” Hughes said. “Something the kids deserve.”

Edwards and Alvarez skipped recess to discuss and design. Edwards suggested a full-length basketball court. There wasn’t enough room, so TPL painted three half-length courts. The new playground is green; TPL planted trees and bushes. Why engage the students? Better results and a sense of ownership, TPL NYC director Andy Stone said.

“If you design something, you take care of it,” said Stone.

Justin McMillian, 13, jumped down from the jungle gym to gush about the playground.

“It’s exquisite,” McMillian said.

Jessa Jenkins lives on nearby Faile Street. Her grandchildren attend M.S. 424.

“[The playground] is nice,” Jenkins said. “We’ll be here all summer.”

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