The playground, which used to be an asphalt lot, features a turf field and running track, basketball court, jungle gym, green roof gazebo and outdoor classroom. The space is also available for use by the community after school and on the weekends.
It was funded by Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Peter Koo, New York Road Runners and the Trust for Public Land.
“We build playgrounds all around the borough, and sometimes it is a fight to keep them open,” Katz said. “The fact that it’s available to the surrounding community is an amazing boon to the neighborhood.”
Koo, whose office pitched in $235,000 for the project, said the playground will help students receive a “first-rate experience” at school.
“In our community, what we are lacking is good playgrounds for schools,” he said. “This new playground will make sure that our kids are given the best space possible to stay active, healthy and that they are challenged, both inside and outside the classroom.”
Students at the school helped design the playground. They picked out the different parts of the space and the color designs.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also pitched in, converting the turf field to act as green infrastructure that will capture stormwater instead of diverting it to the sewer system and ultimately Flushing Creek.
Angela Licata, deputy commissioner of sustainability at DEP, explained that DEP used recycled crushed toilets that act “like sponges” for the water to be stored. Over a half-million gallons of water will be controlled through the field.
“When it rains, these sewer systems that carry that water away can be overwhelmed. When they’re overwhelmed, it pollutes the water around the city,” she said. “We want to stop that. Projects like these playgrounds can help us do that.”
Within the school itself, DEP also replaced 91 older toilets with modern, efficient ones that will conserve water.
Carter Strickland, New York State director for the Trust for Public Land, emphasized the importance of “investing in the future” of the city.
“Queens is booming. A lot of people are coming here, and they all need space to run around,” he said. “So we need to get creative and open up spaces like this that are owned by the public, unlock the gates and allow folks in.”
Strickland estimated that 1,000 kids are going touse the playground. An additional 12,160 neighbors live within a 10-minute walk, who can then “incorporate it into their daily life,” he said.
“The reason we need open spaces and play spaces within a 10-minute walk of where they live is so we can destress, get out, run around and burn off a little energy,” Strickland said.
Students and officials ended the celebration with an inaugural run around the track. Peter Ciaccia, president of the TCS New York City Marathon, said 17 laps around the track is one mile. If students run 444 laps, they will have completed a marathon.
“It’s just so important to get the community out there moving and healthy,” he said. “That is our mission.”