Schoolyard to Modern Community Plaza

An Innovative Schoolyard Redesign
and a joint project of The Urban Assembly Academy of Arts & Letters, The Clinton Hill School/PS 20, and Open Road

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz Office of the Brooklyn Borough President Brooklyn Borough Hall 209 Joralemon Street Brooklyn, NY 11201 Dear Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz, It is with great pleasure that we submit our Capital Funding Request for the innovative renovation of our shared schoolyard. Thank you for being so open to learning more about our schools, their growth, and their needs. We are two public schools who believe in “doing things differently,” a community of educators dedicated to innovative education, really knowing our students, integrating technology and the arts, and Above: school mural, and a preview of the talents that could community building. Additionally, we are a community of learners be put towards ground murals in the schoolyard representing the diversity of Brooklyn - serving four districts and 21 zip codes, with students at all learning levels, creating a student population that is racially, economically, geographically, and academically diverse. We serve a unique underserved demographic: the low-income, high achieving students of New York City - students “beating the odds,” despite difficult socio-economic challenges. We are also the most under-funded category of schools - not poor enough to get Title 1 funding every year, and not wealthy enough to have families able to financially invest in school trips, programs, and after-school opportunities. The proposed concrete resurfacing and plaza design for our schoolyard will truly transform our schools, what we are able to provide our students, and will additionally enrich Fort Greene at large. We are thrilled to be partnering with Open Road, a non-profit with innovative expertise in such design endeavors. Thank you for your time and consideration, especially in the current economic environment. Our proposal follows. Feel free to contact us with any questions. Respectfully, Allison Gaines Pell Principal, The Urban Assembly Academy of Arts & Letters Lena Barbera Interim Acting Principal, The Clinton Hill School/PS 20

Below: schoolyard in current state

Arts & Letters and The Clinton Hill School share a school building on 225 Adelphi Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The neighborhood is residential, with brownstones, old churches, and trees lining the streets. While our schools are located in Fort Greene, we serve students from all over Brooklyn. Our two schools, often a home away from home for our students, provide a safe, yet exciting space to learn, play, and grow. We count ourselves lucky to have our home in such a beautiful, ethnically diverse, and culturally alive neighborhood, and we seek to redesign our shared schoolyard to most creatively take advantage of the space that we have, to better serve our students and better reflect the beauty of our surroundings.

This redesign will:
serve our students’ physical and socioemotional needs better, by providing a greatly enhanced space for physical exercise and mid-day play and relaxation. Approximately 660 students use this space every day. complement and draw attention to the surrounding splendor of Fort Greene and cultivate, in our students, an appreciation for outdoor living and exposure. aid both schools in the critical task of increasing parent involvement, by providing a top notch space that students and families feel welcomed by and inspired by.

Above: our students drafting design plans with Paula Hewitt Amram of Open Raod

better accommodate our school and community events, like our annual SummerFest, bringing together our families and local restaurants, non-profits, and arts organizations. propel our two schools’ joint mission to become a cultural focus point of Fort Greene, by having an innovative space for new and larger collaborations between our schools and the vibrant community around us.

Currently, our students spend most of their outdoor recess and physical education time in a drab, bare, and ineffective schoolyard. (See photograph on previous page.) This highly used but deteriorating schoolyard serves approximately 660 children every day. When parents come to pick up their students, the schoolyard is full – yet there is nowhere to sit, and no shade within the schoolyard area. Seating, trees, and simple areas to play would make this a beautiful school and community space. We aim to make this a focus of active play for youth, which would vibrantly interact with the active play all around us, in the next-door public park, the surrounding streets and sidewalks, and in the MS 113 schoolyard on the next block. We, along with our partner, Open Road, envision a redesigned, architecturally innovative, and colorful schoolyard in a “plaza design,” a space that is exciting for students during the school day and also open to the community at times for events in the arts, music, skateboarding, and youth culture. These collaborations, some of which are already happening on a smaller scale, would bring in sponsorship opportunities for arts and physical education programs within Arts & Letters and The Clinton Hill School. Fort Greene has a wealth of cultural and educational organizations, and there is also a significant and thriving local skate and biking culture amongst the youth on our block and those surrounding it. This scene is supported by small, local board companies like Culture and SDC, who have teams and very well attended events. Over the past two years, these companies have also brought their teams to volunteer with Open Road at citywide events. Through our ongoing partnerships with Long Island University, Pratt Institute, among other organizations, and through our design work with Open Road, we have found that communities get much more involved with the life of a school when there are collaborative public events in which they can authentically participate. Investment in the redesign of our shared schoolyard would be protected by local stewards. In addition to our two schools, and non-profits with whom we share good relationships, there are very strong local groups and representatives that protect educational, arts, tenants, and public housing rights (i.e. Pratt Area Community Council). We also know, from our annual SummerFest and other events, that local businesses will enthusiastically support events in the park. There is also effective public transportation in the area, by a multitude of subway stations and many buses. The schoolyard is also just two blocks from Fort Greene Park. Open Road, Afro-Punk, and other local cultural institutions are very committed to this neighborhood, and the annual Afro-Punk festival, of which Open Road is a core partner, attracts over 35,000 people over three days. The Brooklyn Flea also brings a wealth of locals and visitors, as do ongoing events in Fort Greene Park. Open Road has led three design sessions with our two schools, bringing together all affected parties – both schools’ administration teams, custodial leads, involved teachers, parents, and students. These sessions generated design ideas and sketches, and our students have particularly impressed us with their enthusiasm and truly creative ideas. Ideas generated include ground murals, a plaza center, and skateable and bikeable sculptures, which also inventively double as sturdy seating. As a community of educators and learners, and as two highly regarded Fort Greene public schools, we are empowered by this opportunity and excited at the possibility that we might bring such an improvement to our students and our community at large.

Below: schoolyard in current state

Fort Greene is a designated historic district. The Walt Whitman Houses and the Raymond V. Ingersoll Houses, two public housing projects, are within a mile of the schools. This is a diverse and vibrant neighborhood with a great need for effective youth programs and new recreational areas.

Median income is $28,000, which is 35% below the poverty line.

Directions: R, N, D, Q trains to DeKalb Avenue station, then a 13 minute walk east on DeKalb, north on Clermont Avenue. Also, 2, 3, 4, 5 trains to Nevins Street station, G train to Clinton Washington station, and C train to Lafayette station.

Red border denotes our schoolyard and green border denotes the adjacent park maintained by the Parks Department.

The current asphalt surface in the schoolyard is greatly deteriorated. The schoolyard is approximately 120 feet wide by 75 feet deep. This 9,000 square foot area includes all of the school structures that are cared for by the school custodians. Our redesign will resurface this entire area in concrete, making an incredibly powerful transformation to the space and an effective investment in the future of the space – as concrete lasts more than twice as long as asphalt. Concrete is also drastically cooler in the summer, and is undeniably brighter and much more visually welcoming. After resurfacing the entire space, we will install built-in concrete benches, ledges, and planters, all low to the ground (below 3 feet), that will all surround an open play space, creating a plaza design, in a moderm, innovative aesthetic. In addition, these built in structures will all be bikeable and skateable AND seating structures themselves. Students and other neigbhorhood youth will be able to sit, socialize, skate, and bike on these structures. The schoolyard will be transformed into a dynamic community space – exciting for athletics and play and peaceful and communal with shady seating. All will benefit – school youth, their parents and families, neighborhood youth and families, and collaborative community events. The construction cost will be $15/square foot, which is the current cost for concrete surfacing and ledge/bench areas within a playable plaza setting, including trees and perennial plantings. The total construction cost will be $135,000 for our full plaza design.

Curved benches, low walls around planters, and curbs will all be long-lasting, fun to play on, and comfortable.

Programming & Events:
Open Road provides free art, gardening, and skate physical education programs. These will be offered to both of our schools. Some examples include the hiring of a local program director and the hiring of local kids to become instructors (trained and supported by Billy Rohan and other Open Road core team members). Daily informal after-school programs may be led by Open Road and partners in the schoolyard, and during the school day Physical Education skateboarding classes may be taught by Open Road and local partners. Any programming will be supervised and determined by us, the principals of both schools, and will reflect the feedback we solicit from our students and their families.

Pictures, clockwise from upper left: 1) Students on the roof of Seward Park High School, Manhattan, at Open Road skateboarding event 2) Students at Open Road’s skate clinic for AfroPunk Festival at nearby BAM 3) Open Road Physical Education students at East Side Community High School, Manhattan

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