Some sat on the turf field or did cartwheels. Many went directly to the basketball and volleyball courts. Others played at the brand new jungle gym.
The Kew Gardens Hills students were all ecstatic about their new green community space, which officially opened last Wednesday.
“I really like the equipment they added,” said Carrie Solorzano, an eighth grader at RFK Middle School. “I think it’s really creative.”
“I like this park because it has the running track, and I like running,” added eighth grader Richelle Abreu. “And it’s more colorful.”
Students noted that the old playground was boring and full of broken concrete. Sixth-grader Syed Zain said he’ll be using the basketball court the most.
“I think it’s good because you can get fit,” he said. “You can play sports of every kind.”
The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit that builds parks, worked with Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman and the Department of Environmental Protection to secure $1.2 million for the new playground.
In addition all of the new features, the playground will capture 1.2 million gallons of stormwater annually, which will help local waterways like the Flushing Creek.
Carter Strickland, the New York state director for TPL, said the organization is leading a campaign to make sure everyone lives within a 10 minute walk of a park.
“We do think parks like this can be good not only for the school, because you can get out and play, but also for the community,” he said. “This is a very visible location.”
Neighbors can use the playground after school hours and on the weekends. Strickland estimates that about 18,000 people live within a ten-minute walk from the new green space.
Katz, who has allocated more than $4 million in capital dollars on projects like this with TPL, said she knows how important it is for children to have available equipment and space for recess and gym.
“We look forward to the generations of students who will partake in this playground,” she said. “We look forward to the generations of students who will help in the future to create environmentally savvy developments and playgrounds.”
Richard Marowitz, who recently retired as the principal of PS 255, said he grew up in the neighborhood, went to the school and played in the old park. He called the new playground “amazing.”
“If I had this when I was a kid, it would’ve been fantastic,” he said.
Marowitz said he’s even more pleased that students and the school community were involved in the process from the beginning. Students helped design the playground, and included elements they wanted to use.
“Twenty years as a principal, it wasn’t always like this for our staff and our kids and parents, to be included in great things like today,” he said. “It warms my heart. If I had to retire knowing things have changed like this, it was a good time.”