|Robert M. Morgenthau, then the Manhattan district attorney and president of the Police Athletic League, with children on a Playstreet in July 1981. Dith Pran/The New York Times|
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 !!!!
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
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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.|
“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.”
|Leonard Sutton of Playstreets taught children how to play miniature golf on 122nd Street in Harlem in July 1966.|
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.
|From left, Alex Didomenico, Sklah Hemphill and London Huggins drew at the Polo Grounds|
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.
Said Mr. Morgan: “Nothing like your own block.”
|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.