Oct. 21, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Parents and educators seeking to partially close 34th Street for PS 166 student use have gotten an important green light.
As the Astoria Post reported on Tuesday, the school community wants to create a “school playstreet” next to PS 166, on 34th Street between 34th Avenue and 35th Avenue.
The city’s playstreet initiative allows schools to regularly close roads to traffic for student recreation. The application process requires approval from the local community board and NYPD precinct.
PS 166 parents are applying for a playstreet from 10:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. daily. A group of families and educators visited Community Board 1 on Tuesday to ask for their formal support.
The school has a small outdoor recess space that can accommodate about 100 of its 1,180 students at a time. Therefore, classes trade off outdoor recess every other day, so each student gets recess at most three times per week, according to Principal Jessica Geller.
Currently, the school manages the limited outdoor space by incorporating physical activity into the regular school day, such as a classroom movement activity set to “Let’s Go Mets!,” according to the School Leadership Team.
However, for parents, outdoor free-play is irreplaceable.
“Without real play during the school day, the impact is felt long after the final bell rings,” PS 166 PTA President Fred McConnell said. “We feel it when we try to get them to sit still for just a few minutes to wrap up their math problems, read a book or even to eat their dinner.”
Board members raised concerns about PS 166’s proximity to Kaufman Astoria Studios, which closes 36th Street to traffic, as well as the Astoria Dialysis Center, which has a parking lot entrance on 34th Street across from the school.
Social worker Vincent Joseph said the dialysis center would have “no problem” with the playstreet, except for the fact that 34th Street is the only lot entrance available to emergency vehicles, as well as to doctors who visit sporadically throughout the day.
Parent Dominic Stiller explained a possible system to CB 1 whereby chaperones would gather students onto the sidewalk if any residents, dialysis center vehicles or emergency vehicles needed to exit during playstreet hours. He anticipated this would be infrequent.
Stiller could not be reached for follow-ups to address Joseph’s specific concern.
Ultimately, CB 1 voted overwhelmingly in favor of the playstreet.
PS 166 must submit their application to the Department of Transportation by Nov. 1.
Reach reporter Jackie Strawbridge at [email protected]