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Queens Chronicle

OPINION PS 221’s new playground should open on weekends

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:14 pm, Thu Nov 14, 2019.

The City Council just voted to spend $8 billion on four new jails; yet, our elected officials can’t find the funds to keep brand-new playgrounds open to the community. What gives?

A new $1.5 million, state-of-the-art playground at PS 221 in Little Neck officially opened on Oct. 21. It is the product of many partnerships including The Trust for Public Land, the Department of Education, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the School Construction Authority, as well as public funding from Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilman Barry Grodenchik. It features a three-lane running track, areas to play volleyball and basketball, a junior tennis court, benches, trees and other play equipment. Sounds like a homerun for the entire community doesn’t it? Not so fast.

Residents hoping to lace up their running shoes are in for an unwelcome surprise; a locked gate. The mission of The Trust for Public Land is to create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come, yet this playground will not be open to the community on weekends. Wait what? A $l.5 million community playground, closed on the weekends? Am I in an episode of the “Twilight Zone”?

Equally perplexing is that TPL’s website promises donors that, “on weekends, these new playgrounds, will open their gates to the entire community.” I expect this type of dishonesty from politicians but not from a national nonprofit. Why isn’t TPL putting pressure on Schools Chancellor Carranza, Katz and Grodenchik to find ways to fully fund this project?

All New Yorkers should be outraged by the hypocrisy of our city government. Eight billion for jails? Sure! No problem! Funding to keep a community park open to the community? Sorry, can’t do it. Grodenchik, whose district includes Little Neck, voted to fund new jails but neither he nor Katz have yet to explain why the playground’s three-lane track will spend its weekends collecting leaves rather than the calories of his constituents. Closing this new playground on the weekends would be like shutting down a city pool during the summer. It just doesn’t make sense.

Adriana Aviles is president of Community Education Council 26, a former NYPD officer and the mother of two sons who attend PS 221 and a daughter attending MS 67.

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