P.S. 261 playground is first of 40 school spaces to keep local waterways healthy

September 20, 2013 Heather Chin
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Kids, parents and city officials gathered at P.S. 261’s playground on Pacific Street in Boerum Hill on September 19 to celebrate the newly reopened and renovated play space, but beneath the green lawn, benches and trees, there was another “green” to get excited about.

That is because the playground was renovated using green infrastructure that will allow rainwater to drain into the Gowanus Canal–sending clean water into the highly toxic SuperFund site and contributing to its overall health and cleanliness levels.

This one playground alone is expected to manage nearly 500,000 gallons of stormwater every year.

It is one of 40 playgrounds planned throughout the city over the next four years to help nurture cleaner local waterways, such as the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and Jamaica Bay. Two more green playgrounds will be completed this fall at J.H.S. 218 in East New York and P.S. 65 in Cypress Hills; both will drain stormwater into Jamaica Bay.

All 40 playgrounds are/will be the product of a partnership between the city and The Trust for Public Land; the partnership has a mission of “easing pressure on the city’s sewer system and improving the health of local waterways.”

“We have enough asphalt in New York City,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin. “That’s why I’m proud to support the new playground at P.S. 261 that will provide a healthier, greener place for our children to play.”

Levin allocated $200,000 for P.S. 261’s playground. Councilmembers Charles Barron and Christine Quinn contributed the same amount each for J.H.S. 218 and P.S. 65, respectively.

The city Department of Education (DOE) and the city Department of Environmental Protection were also on board financially, contributing funds towards infrastructure and construction of the environmentally-friendly playgrounds.

“In the advent of climate change–and increased storm events, combining inner city recreation and new playgrounds where needed—with the latest green infrastructure technologies that captures rain water, is a win-win for a cleaner harbor and reduced local flooding in our neighborhoods,” said Marc Matsil, The Trust for Public Land’s New York State director.

According to the city DEP, the playground components depend “on the size and layout of the space, and the needs of the particular school.” They could include:

“small green roofs on storage sheds, rain gardens, rain barrels to capture stormwater that falls on roofs, tree swales with pervious pavers, and artificial turf fields with a gravel base that allow stormwater to pass through and be absorbed into the ground.  The green infrastructure components will capture at least the first inch of stormwater that falls on the playgrounds each time it rains.”

The neighborhoods around each playground will also benefit, as each site will be open to the public after school and on weekends until dusk, seven days a week, as part of the Schoolyards to Playgrounds program.

Over the next year, the partnership will build up to 10 additional playgrounds that will improve the health and cleanliness of the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, Westchester Creek, the Bronx River, Flushing Bay, and Jamaica Bay.

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