A long-awaited improvement to a playground at a mid-Bronx school is finally completed.
School officials and a first grade class at P.S. 23 in Bathgate celebrated the culmination of the long-awaited $475,000 playground with a ribbon cutting on Wednesday, November 14.
All the play equipment in the school’s recreation area is now handicapped accessible and ADA-compliant, with activity boards that help meet requirements in gross motor skills for the school’s universal pre-k classes, and features surfaces made of plastic and other materials instead of wood and metal, said Shirley Torres, P.S. 23 principal.
“It was time (for a new playground), said the principal. “Every school needs a functional playground for recess and for pre-k requirements.”
“This is a compliance issue because the school curriculum includes gym, and children need to be otherwise physically active,” she added.
Principal Torres said that the P.S. 23 Parents Association mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign to get the project included in Councilman Ritchie Torres’ Participatory Budgeting Program, where his constituents vote on projects they would like to see funded each year.
The councilman made the funding announcement at the fifth grade’s graduation in 2016, said the principal.
Councilman Torres was ultimately able to allocate the nearly half a million dollars for the construction, which the principal said began in July 2017 after about a year in which the school was able to consult with the School Construction Authority about the design.
“The students at P.S. 23 were able to persuade hundreds of residents of Council District 15 to vote in the participatory budget process to upgrade the school playground,” said Councilman Torres. “Their advocacy made this a reality.”
The playground received 1,200 votes out of 3,000 in one of the councilman’s participatory budgeting votes, according to the councilman’s office.
The old playground replaced hazardous conditions and outdated swing sets, and with the new one featuring updated ground mats, play-sets and paintings, stated a councilman spokesman in an e-mail.
The principal said that the city official’s support was instrumental in making a goal of the community come through.
“It was something that the school on its own couldn’t do on our own, not with our budget in this day and age,” said the principal.
The equipment in the new school playground is a vast improvement, which had play equipment from when the building opened 26 years ago that was causing such a safety hazard it was eventually placed off limits, said principal Torres.
Wooden landings on the original play equipment had began to warp and splitter, while metal parts of the equipment would get unbearingly hot in the sun, she said.
Feedback from teachers has been extremely positive, and the ramps which were installed as part of the project should help students who use wheelchairs and walkers access the recreation area.
Additionally, the SCA installed screening around the playground to limit the facility’s impact on the private residences bordering the schoolyard, said P.S. 23’s principal.