A newly revitalized playground next to a school building has transformed a barren blacktop into a vibrant play space for the entire community.
Youth, school officials and community leaders came together on Tuesday, June 25 to celebrate the completion of a state-of-the art green playground that serves a group of schools at 977 Fox Street and will also be open to the entire community.
Students at the school campus – which includes Accion Academy, the School of Performing Arts and South Bronx Classical Charter School – participated in the process of designing the new playground as part of the work of non-profit, Trust for Public Land, which worked with the city to develop the new public space.
The $1.35 million playground includes a new running track, basketball hoops, turf field for softball and other activities, green-roof gazebo, amphitheater and play equipment, and benches and trees.
Providing funding for the project were Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr., MetLife Foundation, NYC Department of Environmental Protection and Trust for Public Land.
Salamanca said he provided $425,000 in funding for the playground, which he added that he used in his own youth when he grew up in the community.
“I played at that park adjacent to the school as a kid,” said Salamanca, recalling it once had few amenities and was an asphalt play area before renovations.
Now as a councilman, he said that he is looking for ways to bring dollars back to a number of parks in his district that have seen disinvestment for years.
“We just took an asphalt lot and brought it back to life for a multi-use purpose, for kids not just in that school building, but also in the community,” said Salamanca.
The renovations let youth play soccer, softball, kickball and punch ball, said Salamanca, who added he has worked to have the majority of the recreational space in his district renovated in some way, and that he finds this extremely satisfying and rewarding.
Diaz said in a statement, released in response to an inquiry about the new facility, that he has always advocated for creating facilities where children can run around and be kids rather than staying at home and playing video games.
He said he advocates for shared recreational spaces that are in good condition and inviting to the public so that Bronxites of all ages can take advantage of them.
“What starts off as ‘kids being kids;’ running around and having fun in our park spaces, becomes the building blocks to developing a healthier lifestyle as our kids become adults,” said the borough president.
Diaz added that improving public spaces is paramount for his #Not62 health initiative, designed to raise the health outcomes of Bronxites.
Mary Alice Lee of the Trust for Public Land said she believes that the play area will be an asset to the Foxhurst community and that the organization had mapped the area and determined it was in need of more parkland and recreational space.
“The creation of this new playground – led with the tremendous assistance of the students – will not only serve the needs of the school, but is a beautiful new park for the entire community to enjoy,” said Carter Strickland, The Trust for Public Land New York State Director.