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PS 166 Seeking To Partially Close 34th Street For Student Play Space

Oct. 20, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge

Parents and administrators at PS 166 want the city to close a portion of 34th Street each morning for student use, to augment the school’s limited outdoor play space.

They will approach Community Board 1 this evening to make their case.

PS 166, located at 33-09 35th Ave., has a small recess space that can accommodate about 100 of the school’s 1,180 kids 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.

The school community has identified “school playstreets,” a city initiative that closes roads to traffic during the day for student use, as a possible way to increase outdoor recreation.

Members of the PS 166 School Leadership Team said they are applying for a playstreet on 34th Street between 34th Avenue and 35th Avenue – the portion that is adjacent to the school – for three hours daily, between 10:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.

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!”

“These are different, very creative ways to improve physical activity in an urban environment, but there’s a really easy solution, which is to expand the space,” School Leadership Team member Melissa Lee said. “We’re just trying to use existing resources and figure out a way to get these kids moving in the day.”

“The school is in complete favor of this,” Geller said at a school district meeting on Monday. “Logistically it’s great because we can get [the students] right outside the door very quickly, and supervise it appropriately in a very efficient manner.”

According to Department of Health guidelines, the playstreet application must be submitted by Nov. 1 and requires approval from the Community Board and local NYPD precinct.

PS 166 parents have reached out to CB 1 for input from the Transportation and Education chairs, who said “they didn’t think it was a good idea,” due to other street closures and congestion in the area, according to District Manager Florence Koulouris.

The school is a block from Kaufman Astoria Studios, which closes 36th Street to traffic and has restricted parking on 35th Street.

Koulouris referred the Astoria Post to Transportation Chair Bob Piazza for questions ahead of tonight’s meeting; Piazza could not be reached as of press time.

The playstreet proposal is not parents’ first attempt to create new recreational space at PS 166.

Last year, a $100,000 rooftop playground was one of the ballot items for Councilman Costa Constantinides’ participatory budgeting session (although the school lies in Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s district).

Lee said the school community hasn’t abandoned the idea of a rooftop playground, but the playstreet presents a cheaper, quicker option.

“Having a playground in the building is the ultimate [goal],” she said. “But right now we don’t want to wait for five more years of kids to graduate from this school without having recess.”

CB 1’s meeting wil take place tonight at 7 p.m. at the Astoria World Manor, 25-22 Astoria Blvd.

Reach reporter Jackie Strawbridge at [email protected]om

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