Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo announced the groundbreaking for a new student-designed community playground at P.S. 377 Alejandrina Benitez DeGautier School at 200 Woodbine Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Part of the Cuomo administration’s larger “Vital Brooklyn” initiative, the playground––valued at $1.5 million––will provide 34,189 local residents a new green space within a short 10-minute walk of their homes.

The Trust for Public Land, New York Road Runners and New York State Parks officials joined local Brooklyn students, teachers, and families for an official ceremony celebrating the start of the P.S. 377 Alejandrina B. De Gautier School playground construction on May 25.

Acting State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid commented on the significance of the event: “Not only are the playgrounds important community resources, but they are smartly designed with green ideals in mind.”

On schedule to open in the Spring of 2020, the space’s design will be driven with eco-conscious intention: lining the park with trees, installing a turf pod, pervious pavers and other green infrastructure elements––all put in place to capture up to an inch of rainwater during storms.

Beyond the clear environmental interests, children in Bushwick and their future generations also reap the benefits of the park. Applauding Gov. Cuomo on awarding her district the new playground, Bushwick’s Assemblywoman Maritza Davila emphasized the importance of parks and personal development, in that, “Parks and open spaces are critical for our youth to develop into healthy young adults.”

P.S. 377 via  YouTube.

Underscoring the prioritization of youth development in the community, the playground design was led by students of the school, helping them gain valuable knowledge and life skills, including budgeting, business negotiation, and environmental science.

In a city where 73 percent of low-income neighborhoods fail to meet the city’s standard of 2.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, a growing issue is coming to light where, “Low-income communities of color, such as Bushwick, have historically been denied access to green space compared to other New York City communities,” Senator Julia Salazar said. “This reality is accompanied by many other ways in which people of color are disenfranchised in our society.”

Overall, Governor Cuomo’s $1.4 billion “Vital Brooklyn” initiative, launched in 2017, seeks to change this issue, addressing green space and other chronic disparities, such as systemic violence and entrenched poverty in high-need communities.

The comprehensive plan targets increased access to open spaces and recreation, which includes the opening of the new 407-acre state park named in honor of Shirley Chisholm, a Brooklyn-born trailblazer, who was the first African American Congresswoman, as well as the first woman and African American to run for President.

In addition, $10.6 million is also being provided to transform eight schoolyards into community playgrounds and open space, $3.1 million to transform nearly two dozen community gardens, and $1.8 million to enhance four recreation centers across central Brooklyn.

Cover image courtesy of ny.gov

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