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Not in my yard - Some balk at playground plan

In Marine Park, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

So far, this seems to be the sentiment regarding a proposed playground at Public School 207, 4011 Fillmore Avenue.

Residents continue to worry that the playground, part of the mayor’s PlaNYC initiative, will attract an element more interested in scotch than hopscotch.

“I want the playground—but I don’t want the basketball courts, and I don’t want kids drinking and peeing on our lawns,” a Kimball Street resident told Community Board 18 at its June meeting.

The city’s $111 million initiative seeks to open 290 schoolyards in neighborhoods across the city.

The PS 207 project will cost roughly $320,000 and is a joint effort involving the mayor’s office, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Education, and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization.

One of the project’s goals is to open the new playgrounds to the public—even when school is not in session.

While TPL has promised to include the community in all aspects of the P.S. 207 playground’s design, some, including the area’s city councilmember, say they were initially not part of the discussion.

“This is a project that comes from the mayor’s side without any consultation with the councilman,” Councilmember Lew Fidler said. “I wasn’t notified.”

Susan David, TPL’s director of public affairs, said that the councilman’s office was e-mailed about the project months ago, when the organization began working with the school.

Meanwhile, Fidler said some of his constituents fear that the playground will continue to invite rowdy behavior. Already, the schoolyard—little more than a large yard—attracts a raucous crowd.

“There is a difference of opinion whether this can be done right,” the city lawmaker said.

“In principle, this is a great idea,” he continued. “But it has to work for each neighborhood—and each neighborhood is different.”

Fidler stressed that the design is not yet “a done deal.”

Dorothy Turano, the district manager of the community board, said the design was a long way from being finalized.

Still, she said, “I oppose these things because they always have money for the program, but never [enough] for the maintenance.”

Extra money will be earmarked for the school custodian to open and close the renovated playground, according to Dominique Elie, a senior program associate with TPL.

While the hours have not yet been announced, it is expected the playground will open at dawn and be closed at dusk, TPL officials said.

“One of the benefits, in our experience, is that when you convert what is a vacant lot into an actual park that is used by the community, it no longer is just a place behind a builidng where kids hang out,” David said.

“That’s our hope for this project as well,” she added.

David said the amended design will soon be shared with the school, as well as the Marine Park Civic Association. Plans include play equipment, seating a track, and outdoor classroom space. “What we are hoping for is a final seal of approval, but you never know,” David said.

Greg Borruso, the president of the Marine Park Civic Association, said the hope is to make the new playground work for the neighborhood.

After all, it’s all residents can do at this point. “We were told we were getting a playground. We weren’t told we have a choice,” he said.

“We want to make sure that playground fits with the character of the neighborhood,” he continued.

The original plan called for four permanent basketball hoops, but it has now been amended to include just two hoops that will be dismantled when school is not in session.

Borruso said TPL officials promised to get back to him at the end of June with new sketches, presumably incorporating some of the civic association’s concerns. The new design will be shared with local residents, he added.

“I think people are skeptical now, because of the concerns of kids hanging out, but I think people will realize that this will be an asset,” Borruso added.

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