DEP Joins TPL And EPA to Celebrate Opening of New Student-Designed “Green” Playground at Elmhurst Educational Campus in Queens

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Green Infrastructure will capture approximately 1.7 million gallons of stormwater annually, reducing neighborhood flooding and improving the health of Flushing Bay; Photos available on DEP’s Flickr Page

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Wednesday joined with The Trust for Public Land, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to open a newly renovated “Green” schoolyard at the Elmhurst Educational Campus in Queens. Green infrastructure elements incorporated in the playground’s construction will capture approximately 1.7 million gallons of stormwater each year, helping to improve the health of Flushing Bay and reduce the risk of flooding for residents and businesses in the area. The schoolyard was funded in part through DEP’s Green Infrastructure program.

“DEP is proud to partner with The Trust for Public Land, U.S. EPA and the entire Elmhurst community as we open their new, environmentally-friendly school playground,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “The green infrastructure elements included in the new play space will absorb more than 1.7 million gallons of stormwater annually and improve the health of nearby Flushing Bay.”

“Parks and playgrounds are essential for the mental and physical well-being of New Yorkers, and this project is a key part of our work to close the park equity gap and increase climate resiliency by rethinking how we utilize open space.” said Carter Strickland, VP of the Mid-Atlantic and New York State Director for The Trust for Public Land. “In addition to serving the entire community with usable park space, this schoolyard has a new outdoor classroom so that students have the opportunity to safely study while connecting with classmates and its green infrastructure features will absorb millions of gallons of stormwater that would otherwise flood our city streets.”

“Green infrastructure projects like the new schoolyard at the Elmhurst Educational Campus Community Playground are critical to building a more sustainable New York City as we strive for climate justice for all of its residents,” said EPA acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan. “EPA is proud to support projects like this one that provide long-term results to improve water quality, prevent pollution, protect local waterways and raise public awareness.”

“The newly renovated community schoolyard at the Elmhurst Educational Campus is a top-notch recreational resource that will serve the Elmhurst community well for decades to come,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “This investment will better enable both schoolchildren and local residents to enjoy the outdoors and be physically active. The Queens Borough President’s Office is proud to have helped fund this project and to work with Councilmember Daniel Dromm, the Trust for Public Land, and all of our partners on making this schoolyard a reality.”

“Making sure that schools and communities have open and green space is an issue that is very important to me,” said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm. “As a former teacher I can say that being outdoors really contributes to a student’s overall health and learning. I am so glad that the Pan Am playground has been completed in a district that really needed the support and for students who come from all different backgrounds that may not have access to these amenities otherwise. I hope that as a community we can continue to work with The Trust for Public Land, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for more innovative and much-needed projects.”

The playground was designed by students from each of the four schools housed in at the Elmhurst Campus, including Pan American International High School, Civic Leadership Academy, VOYAGES Preparatory High School, and Queens Transition Center, to reflect their neighborhood’s unique identity, culture, and character. The student-chosen playground features include basketball hoops, a volleyball court, an outdoor classroom and garden area, game tables, a green-roof gazebo, fitness equipment, benches, a running track, a handball court, a turf field, and bleachers, as well as green infrastructure elements such as shade trees, permeable pavers, and synthetic turf areas. This new playground will serve a diverse population at the four schools sharing the building, where between 71 and 98 percent of students identify as Black, Hispanic, or Asian and 40 percent of families fall below the Federal Poverty Level.

Green infrastructure elements like permeable pavers will capture approximately 1.7 million gallons of stormwater each year, helping to reduce neighborhood flooding and improve the health of nearby Flushing Bay. The schoolyard will be open to the community during non-school hours and will serve nearly 45,000 residents within a 10-minute walk of home.

NFWF, with funding from the EPA, provided nearly $200,000 for completion of the schoolyard through their Long Island Sound Futures Fund that supports projects to fully restore the health and living resources of Long Island Sound. The Sound provides recreational opportunities to millions of residents and offers habitat for thousands of species.

Nationwide, the Trust for Public Land has transformed more than 300 underused schoolyards into nature-rich parks designed to address inequities in education, health, and climate impacts. Every one of our community schoolyard transformations includes agreements between a school district and other local agencies to allow the community to use the space when school is closed. According to new research from The Trust for Public Land, open access to all public schoolyards across the country during non-school hours would put a park within a 10-minute walk of more than 19.6 million people, including 5.2 million children, who currently lack access.

About the New York City Department of Environmental Protection

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing approximately 1 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water each day to nearly 10 million residents, including 8.8 million in New York City. The water is delivered from a watershed that extends more than 125 miles from the city, comprising 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes. Approximately 7,000 miles of water mains, tunnels and aqueducts bring water to homes and businesses throughout the five boroughs, and 7,500 miles of sewer lines and 96 pump stations take wastewater to 14 in-city treatment plants. DEP has a robust capital program, with a planned $20.1 billion in investments over the next 10 years that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year. For more information, visit nyc.gov/dep, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.

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