On Monday, the Louis Armstrong Middle School community celebrated the opening of a new playground. The project was led by the Trust for Public Land, the nonprofit that has designed and renovated 201 playground in New York City since 1996.
In Queens alone, TPL has built five playground at local schools, with five more in the pipeline.
“We believe that parks can transform communities and people, especially kids,” said Carter Strickland, TPL’s New York state director. “We’re hoping this playground will not only be fun, but will help the students pay attention when you’re inside the classrooms.”
The playground features a turf field, running track, five basketball hoops, volleyball court, outside classroom space, new equipment and a garden to learn about nature.
The space will also be open to the public for use after school and on the weekends. By Strickland’s estimate, 42,000 people live within a ten-minute walk of the playground, including 11,000 children and 4,000 seniors.
Borough President Melinda Katz, who helped fund the $1.3 million project, said she sees the huge difference between the old lot and the new playground.
“This is going to be a game-changer,” she said.
Principal Helen Ponella called the community playground a “dream come true.” The asphalt space had numerous cracks and puddles formed from more than three decades of wear and tear. That led to falls, bumps and bruises on an almost daily basis.
“This is a gift to our students and surrounding residents,” she said, “that will be utilized and appreciated for decades to come.”
Students were involved throughout the planning process. Julie Bonano, a member of the design team, said they first figured out their budget and timeline. They surveyed students from different classes to find out what everyone wanted in a new playground.
They looked at different features that would help collect rainwater and mitigate sewer overflows, such as the turf field and new gardens.
Finally, the designers narrowed down the choices and had a school-wide vote on a final design.
“These skills I will remember forever,” said student designer Maya Turner.
When school returned in the fall, the students met for one last component to the project: adding a time capsule. Turner said they put together a yearbook with messages for the future, newspaper clippings, and a fidget spinner.
The school community lowered the box into the ground during the ceremony Monday, and cheered as they shoveled the remaining dirt to cover it.
“In 20 years, we will open this box and remember all the joy, enthusiasm and knowledge surrounding this event,” Turner said. “I have taken a lot away from this wonderful and exciting experience.”