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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tollyne Dickerson Makes Playstreets Happen This Summer in the Bronx

Robert M. Morgenthau, then the Manhattan district attorney and president of the Police Athletic League, with children on a Playstreet in July 1981CreditDith Pran/The New York Times
From Betsy:

I know you all thought that the Carmen Farina-Bill de Blasio team would care about kids and the families in the Bronx but you were wrong.

One of my very favorite people on the planet, chapter leader, wholistic health advisor (mine), and a great resource for anything anyone needs at anytime (I LIKE her ALOT), Tollyne Dickerson, is involved in Playstreets, and has told me the story of what happened.

There would be no Playstreets this summer if it weren't for Tollyne. She made it happen.

I love her. The Bronx loves her.

Thanks, Tollyne !!!!

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Heard on the Stoops: A Nostalgia for Playstreets

For more than 100 years, Playstreets have been part of New York summers. They're being phased out in favor of more curated experiences.
Stoopside in Harlem, a conversation began Monday evening about the loss of a summer institution in neighborhoods across the city.

Frances and Shiasia Harris, mother and daughter, gently debate for how long — before this year — their block, 151st Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, served as an official summer Playstreet, a kids’ kingdom, closed to traffic and open for fun.

“We had it here for over 20 years,” Shiasia said.

“More than 20 years,” Frances corrected.

“I said ‘over’ 20 years,” Shiasia rebutted. “I’ll be 27 next month. Since I was a child, I was coming out to play on Playstreet.”

As of this summer, that’s not a choice for those growing up on 151st Street or dozens of blocks around the city that also used to be transformed in July and August into Playstreets. There will be 15 this year, down from about 40 in 2016 and 150 two decades ago. Those that remain are nearly all in city parks or on the grounds of housing projects.

“I’m sorry, but I grew up in the projects — we had playgrounds right there,” Frances Harris said. “How do you have Playstreet in the projects? It should be ‘Play project.’”
An Idea With Legs
At left, play time on West 123rd Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass Boulevards in 1997. At right, Officer Russell Blair of Brooklyn's 73rd Precinct with children at the Sterling Place Playstreet in 1962.
Summer play streets go back to 1914, the brainstorm of a police commissioner who thought they would be a good way to keep young people out of trouble. Over the years, they were run by the Police Athletic League, or P.A.L., which provided counselors.

“At one time, we had over 100, all of them privately financed,” Robert M. Morgenthau, the former Manhattan district attorney who has been a member of the P.A.L. board for more than 50 years and now, a few weeks short of his 98th birthday, serves as its chairman. “During the Lindsay administration, someone called me and said, ‘The city wants to take them over and pay for them.’”

Last year, the P.A.L. received $680,000 from the city to run Playstreets. This year, the amount is $355,000. “More resources in a smaller number of Playstreets,” Frederick J. Watts, the league’s executive director, said. “The funder — the city — wanted to see that we had more active, engaged programs, rather than have a broader, more passive program.”

A Curated Approach to Play
Leonard Sutton of Playstreets taught children how to play miniature golf on 122nd Street in Harlem in July 1966. 
Some Playstreets teemed with children; others were scarcely used. City officials say they are not spending less on recreation but are shifting it to more popular programs like Kids in Motion, which has the announced aim of introducing children to “physical activity in a fun, noncompetitive environment.” In a briefing memo, the city said that Kids in Motion features “trained recreation and sports instructors,” as opposed to Playstreets counselors; the Kids in Motion programs are held at playgrounds with courts and jungle gyms, unlike Playstreets, most of which were on “hot blacktop” with equipment limited to whatever could be stored nearby. Another aim is to expand offerings to older teenagers. The P.A.L. will also run 21 camps with city money.

In curtailing the Playstreets, officials said they had mapped alternatives, citing, for instance, a playground near 151st Street.

Reality has a way of interfering with the best-mapped intentions. “That playground is under construction,” Brandon Morgan, a mason who lives on 151st Street, said.

A Ritual That Beat Cartoons
From left, Alex Didomenico, Sklah Hemphill and London Huggins drew at the Polo Grounds 
“You wake up in the morning, get dressed, and come downstairs instead of sitting on the couch watching cartoons,” Shiasia Harris said, recalling her years on the 151st Street Playstreet. “You learn how to ride a bike, how to roller skate, because there’s free space.”

She reeled off classic street games: “Hot potato. Steal the bacon. Hopscotch. And Double Dutch — we had Double Dutch tournaments against other blocks that had P.A.L.”

Mr. Morgan added a few others. “Playing basketball, hockey and three big tables with mathematical games, reading comprehension, things like that, for building their minds,” he said.

The block between Broadway and Amsterdam on 151st Street is shoulder to shoulder with apartment houses filled by young families. “Not too many people around here go away for vacation,” Frances Harris said.

Said Mr. Morgan: “Nothing like your own block.”

A Reconsideration?
Daniel Lalin, 13, and Andrew Stapleton, 11, took a break on Tuesday to watch their friends play a basketball game at the Melrose Playground in the Bronx

P.A.L. officials helped pick the 15 sites that will have Playstreets this summer. Mr. Watts said it was not easy, and that 151st Street in Harlem, 196th Street in the Bronx, and 61st Street in Brooklyn were especially “hurting” from the loss of their Playstreets.

Asked about the Playstreet changes, Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “City Hall was not made aware of these closures and we can understand why some are upset.” The decision, she said, is under review.

Tollyne Dickerson, News12, Fordham
Fordham Playstreet reopens to children for summer
News 12, July 10, 2017
Hundreds of children in Fordham were able to return to their local Playstreet this summer.
The Playstreet at 196th Street and Briggs Avenue was thought to be closed due to a lack of funding, but a nonprofit organization stepped in to raise the money. The Fordham Housing Corporation donated the $28,000 needed to open the site and buy supplies for the summer. 
Alumni of the program and parents say they are relieved to see the Playstreet back open.
The Police Athletic League's Playstreets program started in 1914 to provide children with a safe place to play within their communities.
The 196th Street Playstreet will be open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Aug. 17.
Tollyne speaking to News12, June 27, 2017

Posted: Jun 27, 2017 7:39 PM ED

The Police Athletic League's Playstreets program is set to close after more than 20 years of serving children in Bedford Park.
The popular summer program hosts more than 100 children, but its director says it will be gone this year "due to a reduction in departmental funding."
Some Playstreets are being closed and replaced by other summer programs.
PAL Playstreets was started in 1914 to provide children with a safe place to learn, play and interact with their communities.

The Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice told News 12 in a statement, "This year, we are making some strategic improvements to serve more people with a richer array of dedicated services for the same amount of money."

From Betsy:
*Are Carmen and Bill listening to the perspective of New Yorkers such as the Chelsea residents in the article below rather than teachers and parents in the Bronx?? 

Just askin':

Chelsea Block Plagued by Student Fights No Place for 'Play Street': Locals
Students in front of Bayard Rustin HS

CHELSEA — A plan to turn a residential Chelsea block into a “play street” for middle schoolers to take P.E. classes would exacerbate problems on a stretch where students regularly get into fights, throw trash on the ground and "frighten" neighbors, locals say. 
The Bayard Rustin Educational Complex wants to close West 18th Street, between Eighth and Ninth avenues, off to traffic during school hours and use the stretch for supervised physical education classes and possibly recess, the city Department of Education’s head of campus operations, Nick Fiore, told Community Board 4’s Transportation Planning Committee on Wednesday.
But neighbors at the meeting said they feared emergency vehicles wouldn’t be able to access the street — which is home to the LGBT Callen-Lorde Community Health Center — and worried that the plan would do nothing to mitigate ongoing problems on the block, where fights between students are a common occurrence, several residents said.
“I’ve witnessed very big fights,” one attendee said. “I couldn’t even leave my apartment — I had to wait until the cops came to break it up.”
Crowds of students block the street in the afternoon, pay no heed to pedestrians trying to pass and throw trash onto the street, a resident of West 18th Street said.
“These are not children — these are young adults. They are taller than I am. I’m frightened by them,” he said.
“They’re bratty young adults, not kids,” another resident added. “And if this goes through, there needs to be security guards out there."
Larissa Gonzalez, a resident of West 19th Street, said students have thrown everything from cue balls and food refuse to “sexual and really other gross” items through the school windows and onto her roof.
“I don’t think it will be safe,” she said of the play street proposal. “The violence is quite dangerous on the street.”
Several rarely used playgrounds and open spaces near the school could be used for P.E. classes instead, residents said.
Moreover, middle school students “do not need a play street,” said Frank Lowe, vice president of the 300 West 18th/19th Street Block Association.
While Fiore said he couldn’t dispute the neighbors’ anecdotes — having “seen them [himself]” — he argued that having a play street would provide the school a reason to have teachers, aides and safety agents out on the street.
The seven-school building at 351 W. 18th St. houses around 2,200 students — up from around 1,600 or 1,700 students four years ago — and a mandatory recess for middle-schoolers often “monopolizes” its two gymnasiums, Fiore said.
Under the play street proposal, the street would be car-free between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, from September to the end of June, he explained.
“If we have a class in the street… we are paying more attention to those students and actively managing those students, as opposed to when they are simply out there,” Fiore said. “The one thing I would not dispute is, yes, P.E. is noisy.”
A security guard would likely be posted at the end of the play street to allow access to emergency vehicles, he noted.
Following the public discussion, committee members asked Fiore to withdraw his application for the time being to explore possible alternatives to the play street, address neighbors’ concerns and nail down a plan to deal with emergency vehicles.
“Once we have those things in place, we should be able to discuss what you want to do next,” committee co-chair Christine Berthet said, noting that the board “usually likes play streets.”
Committee member Dale Corvino, meanwhile, said he was “very discouraged by the fact that there is a community of residents and a community of students who seem to be completely at odds with each other.”
“I would like to implore the residents and the school to step up and change that dynamic,” he said. “It’s not the way we should run our cities, or… [the way] we should look at our students.”

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