Strengthening Families and Communities Through the Innovative Use of Public Space
BY JOHN KIXMILLER, WITH ANDREW WHITE AND ROB FISCHER
As part of PlaNYC 2030, Mayor Bloomberg recently proposed opening 290 city schoolyards to the public during non-school hours. A Schoolyard in Brooklyn offers a proven model for how to do it right, strengthening families and communities along the way.
The report tells the story of the schoolyard at P.S. 503/506 (formerly P.S. 314) in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, that became a community plaza with activities for all ages. Now known as Neighborhood Center, it offers an affordable and proven model for reclaiming urban community space and many of the city's poorly used schoolyards and parks.
Run by the Center for Family Life, Neighborhood Center has encouraged vibrant intergenerational outdoor cultural life, promoted safe recreation for young people and supported the development of social networks and friendships.
While the authors commend the mayor's initiative, they point out that "simply unlocking the gates," as City Hall has proposed, is not enough. The city cannot assume, they argue, that just throwing open the gates will benefit communities, families and children. City and school administrators and local residents, they say, need to heed the lessons of Sunset Park.
The authors' recommendations include:
define clear roles and responsibilities for maintenance and management of these public spaces;
tap community-based organizations to play the role of schoolyard organizer and manager; and
establish schoolyard management as an element of Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) contracts with community-based organizations.
This report was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Child Welfare Fund, the Ira W. DeCamp Foundation and the Sirus Fund.