Students at Junior High School 162, The Willoughby (J.H.S. 162), in Bushwick, aren’t just participants in the creation of their own green spaces, but in doing so, they’re the first few groups of students to lead the charge for environmental protection in the neighborhood.
Thursday marked the opening of the “green,” playground at the Willoughby Street school. The construction and design, which incorporated student input, was made possible by a partnership between the city’s Department for Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Trust for Public Land, an organization that works with local communities to create and protect parks, playgrounds, gardens, trails, and other green spaces.
The partnership is focused on easing the city’s sewer system and improving local waterways such as Newtown Creek, Gowanus Canal, Westchester Creek, the Bronx River, Jamaica Bay, and Flushing Bay by creating infrastructure to capture rainwater.
The playground at J.H.S. 162 is equipped to handle half a million gallons of rainwater annually and is expected to reduce pollution in Newtown Creek.
“We are pleased to be a part of this unique program that has brought a clean and safe playground to Bushwick and J.H.S. 162, while also helping to reduce pollution in Newtown Creek,” said Emily Lloyd, Commissioner of DEP. “These projects will also help raise awareness amongst the next generation of New Yorkers about the connection between effective stormwater management and the health of our local waterways.”
The partnership is looking to provide up to 40 schools in the city with similar facilities, and apart from the playground at J.H.S. 162, have already completed similar work at P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill and J.H.S 218 and P.S. 65 in East New York.
J.H.S. 162’s Principal Barbara DeMartino, and then-Councilmember Diana Reyna organized and worked tirelessly with the partner groups to create the playground.
“It was a long and hard process and it is incredible to look around and see how beautiful it is today,” said DeMartino. “This is a dream come true.”
“This is an example of how corporate, private, and public partnerships can work well together,” added Reyna, who now serves as the Brooklyn Deputy Borough President.
The new playground includes an artificial turf field, a running track, a basketball court, a handball wall, a rain garden, a gazebo with a green roof, benches, a water fountain, and murals painted by Groundswell.
For the Trust for Public Land, J.H.S 162’s playground is a continuation of their long-standing tradition of supporting schools, having designed or built 183 playgrounds across the city so far.
The grounds will be open to the public after school, and during school breaks until dusk, each week.