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NYC School Playgrounds as Public Spaces
Detail: Despite having one of the largest urban park systems in the United States, and adding even more new parkland in the last few years, New York City does not have enough open space to meet the needs of a growing population especially in lower-income communities. As noted by mayor Michael Bloomberg in PlaNYC, New York has fewer acres of green space per person than almost any other major US city.

Since land is finite and at a premium, innovative strategies are required to address this shortage. Mr. Bloomberg unveiled one of them -- an ambitious plan to fix up 290 previously restricted and largely decrepit school playgrounds and converting them into attractive, usable public spaces open to the general population as well as schoolchildren after school hours, during the weekend and when school is not in session.

Mr. Bloomberg said, ''On any given day, schoolyards around the city are a beehive of activity for the students. But once school ends, the gates close and yards sit empty. They represent the greatest opportunity we have for transforming an existing underused resource cost-effectively into something we can all enjoy.''

Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation group that has a considerable track record of helping cities across the country create small parks, gardens and other green spaces in crowded urban environments, is working with the city on this initiative. This ''Schoolyards to Playgrounds Initiative'' will eventually cost more than $100 million in public and private money.

Renovation involves new or freshly painted asphalt where the blacktop is broken, turf to replace asphalt where possible, landscaping, new fencing, new running tracks, new equipment. The trust will help oversee design and construction and, in some cases, will invite neighborhood residents, including children, to help with the design.69 such spaces opened last week, with the rest to follow by 2010. According to Rose Harvey, a senior vice president of the Trust for Public Land, the project will be the ''largest schoolyard transformation'' in the country.

For the full story see, “Playgrounds as Public Spaces” in NY/ Region Opinions in The New York Times, July 8, 2007.

Source: The New York Times, July 8, 2007
Date: July 8 2007