Nothing but Nets!: Brooklyn Nets help Crown Heights kids celebrate new playground

Dance off: MS 354 Principal Monique Campbell with members of the Brooklynettes dance team.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

This playground is ballin’!

Crown Heights kids celebrated the grand opening of a new playground at MS 354 and the KIPP AMP charter school last week with some help from the Brooklyn Nets, which dispatched it’s high-octane hype team to psyche up locals about the new green space.

“It was pretty amazing,” said Carter Strickland, who heads up the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit group that managed the playground’s construction.

The new play space was built over a dilapidated blacktop located behind the Park Place school between Albany Avenue and Troy Avenue, which was used as much for employee parking as for child’s play, according to Strickland.

Recess: Students from MS 354 perform on the lawn of their new playground.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

“There had been two, kind of sad half-courts, which was mostly used for teacher parking,” he said.

It now features two sets of play equipment, a tennis court, basketball courts, a garden area and outdoor classroom, chess tables, and a nice little gazebo with a roof made of green stuff.

The Trust for Public Land worked with the governor’s office, the city Department of Environmental Protection, and the Brooklyn Nets to cobble together $2 million for the playground renovation, before consulting with local kids to find out what they wanted built there.

Throughout the planning phase, kids learned the ins and outs of designing parks, how to factor in existing infrastructure, such as underground pipes for water fountains, and the cold hard facts of working within a budget, along with sometimes having to let go of some coveted amenities, Strickland said.

After: The MS 354 playground as it now appears following a $2 million renovation.
Trust for Public Land

“In the end, we have the budget reality check,” he explained. “It’s a tough lesson, but there’s some things that don’t get past the starting gate. They want a pool — we’re not getting a pool.”

The playground is reserved for students during school hours, but anyone is welcome to play there on weekends, after school, and during school breaks, and the space is expected to serve the more than 32,000 people living within a 10-minute walk.

“What we’re very proud of is there’s 32,000 people who live within 10 minutes,” said Strickland. “It’s a neighborhood park.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Trust for Public Land

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