Necessity is the mother of invention. For one Upper East Side school, a rooftop play area was born from it.
P.S. 290 Manhattan New School, located off Second Avenue at 311 East 82nd Street, is billed as “a true community of learners as evidenced by our rigorous academics and the dynamic relationship between students, teachers, administrators, staff and families.”
Its rich history and curriculum have been the cornerstone of an academic community that grew from 125 students and seven teachers to a diverse student body of over 600 students from across the globe — and 36 teachers holding it all down.
Despite its successes, limited space at the school has long forced its students to enjoy their play or recess time in the street, protected only by unmanned barricades and teachers whose attention can be drawn in 100 different directions. But parents and students received some welcome news this week after the New York City Council approved its $101 billion budget, Patch first reported.
A “rooftop play place to bring the 100-year-old school into the 21st century” has been sought by parents at the Blue Ribbon school for nearly a decade. A $5 million gap in funding prevented the project from progressing.
However, with $6.5 million coming from three new sources (the recently approved $4 million in mayoral funding, a $1.5 million allocation by City Councilmember Julie Menin, and an additional $1 million from Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright), the monetary bridge needed to move the play space forward has been built.
Menin celebrated the news on Twitter. “PS 290 is one of the last schools in NYC without a gym or phys ed space. Today, that is no more! Thrilled to partner w/@nycmayor to deliver $5.5 million in city funding to convert roof into play space! Proud to bring this victory to our community.”
The total cost will be $8 million and is headed to the School Construction Authority, “which will meet with school leaders to determine the scope and design of the project,” according to Patch.
That really is good news, both for the school and the neighbors. For 37 years I lived directly across the street from the main doors of the school and saw this problem first hand. I didn’t mind the kids playing at all, but the street closures sometimes made things tough. Deliveries can’t be made till after the street is opened, parked cars have to be moved before the street is closed at 8AM. I had to coordinate my move out with the school calendar to find a free day I could use so the truck could come in. On days when I worked at home, using a room in the front of the apartment as my “office”, the mic on my computer and phone picked up the noise from the kids playing and I got many questions about “what is that noise?” The noise will probably still remain, but the street restrictions will be gone. And as the article suggests it is going to be safer for the kids to play out of the street where just about any crazy thing can happen.
Making the roof much more useful and for something so important and so desperately needed is a great thing, and I support it 1000%. But I can’t help wondering what the kids may miss from the street, if anything. I have no idea, but maybe there is. Has anyone asked the kids? Even if they love the roof space, giving up the street may not be desirable.
The reason it matters is that an incredible amount of the land of the city is dedicated to cars exclusively. And sharing that space for temporary alternative uses is a good thing–a multipurpose street and streetscape that is richer and more useful. The kids can be further protected by barricades at both avenues, in addition to the ones that designate the play area. Or we could have retractable bollards, like they do in Barcelona, and I’m sure many other places.
I don’t see why there would be a problem with deliveries if the delivery person just has to park around the corner, or a security guard at the avenue barricade can let local traffic through.
The street territory being re-thought and invested in, for pedestrians among other permanent and temporary uses–as NYC has done lately, for may years–make for an even greater City.
I’m glad, in any case, that the kids have a new space!