After years of playing on cracked and graying blacktop, dozens of children eagerly waited to have their sneakers hit the newly renovated multi-use asphalt of Benson Playground after the July 13 ribbon cutting hosted by New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and City Councilmember Vincent Gentile.
“Our students depend on this park,” said Javier Muniz, principal of P.S. 200. “We come here everyday for lunch/recess. We have three different rotations of 400 students coming out at different times and we dismiss from this space. So it provides us not only an opportunity for our children to be able to release their energy and have a good time during recess but also a safe space where we can dismiss and receive our children every single day. This is going to be something that we use and need for years to come.”
The $1.5 million project, made possible by funding allocated by Gentile, began with a meeting with community members three years ago about the needs for the space. Construction took just under a year and was completed three months ahead of schedule, according to Parks Spokesperson Maeri Ferguson. It had been over a decade since the 2001 renovation to the space, and the asphalt area, worn from the thousands of students who walk and play on it daily, was filled with holes.
The worn-out and patched grey black asphalt has been reconstructed with a brand new color seal coat that has changed the asphalt into a multi-purpose area for field sports like soccer, track and street games. The renovation also included repaving of the basketball and handball courts and installation of new backboards, hoops, nets and a water fountain. A green space with planters and trees adjacent to the school and new plantings around the park were also added.
Despite the high temperature, P.S. 200 students and YMCA campers broke in the new play area with Parks’ staff, playing soccer and basketball.
The playground is jointly operated with P.S. 200 and is open to the public, except during school hours.
“It has every sport that I like. I think this one is a lot nicer,” said Andrea Vasquez, a student who recently graduated from the P.S. 200.