The Trust for Public Land and Newark Public Schools to launch Green, Healthy Schoolyards plan to reach more Newark students.
NEWARK, N.J. — The Trust for Public Land, Newark Public Schools, city and state officials, and the Lafayette Street School community celebrated the opening of a new playground at the Lafayette Street School at a ribbon-cutting ceremony today. The event marks the successful culmination of a longstanding community effort to convert the one-time parking lot into a public playground and learning area for the students and the surrounding community. At the event the partners also announced a goal to expand their partnership to focus on creating new playgrounds at other schools across the city in the years ahead.
Located in the densely packed Ironbound neighborhood of Newark, the school and surrounding blocks previously had no outdoor recreational spaces where kids could safely play outside. The new schoolyard changes that, as it now provides the school’s 1,140 students—and the more than 3,000 children living within a ten-minute walk—with a new state-of-the-art playground with features such as a huge climbing structure, a basketball court, an outdoor learning area, and a multi-sport synthetic turf field.
The community’s interest in returning the schoolyard to a place of play began almost a decade ago. Lafayette Street School parents, Newark Councilman Augusto Amador, members of the Ironbound community, together with The Trust for Public Land, and Newark Public Schools worked together in a campaign to transform the asphalt lot into a vibrant public space for the students and surrounding community.
“The Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People Program has a long history of working with community partners to develop safe, inviting, learning-rich schoolyards throughout Newark, but this was our first schoolyard in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark’s East Ward,” said Scott Dvorak, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People-Newark Program. “The school and the Ironbound community were wonderful partners and we hope others will now get involved to ensure that the playground remains a community resource for many years to come.”
Councilman Amador and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, both Lafayette School alumni, were among the many local leaders who called attention to the need for a healthy play space for the students. “It was an honor to serve as Honorary Co-Chair of the Lafayette Street School campaign with Armando Fontoura and fellow alumni Linda Rodrigues, Elaine Neves, Frank Giantomasi, Vicky Chan and David Puente,” said Councilman Amador. “Together, we gave back to our Ironbound community and the children at Lafayette Street School.”
School administrators, teachers, alumni, Ironbound businesses and local foundations all joined the cause and eventually raised close to $1 million to create the playground. Among the many donors to the campaign were the Edward and Sharon Cruz Family Foundation, PSEG Foundation, The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, Gibson Family Foundation, John and Margaret Post Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Investors Bank, Helen and William Mazer Foundation, Victoria Foundation, and Johanette Wallerstein Institute.
The Trust for Public Land led a participatory design process with the school’s students, teachers, and parents to develop the innovative design for the new schoolyard, which includes a mural by Lafayette School alumna and local artist, Gera Lozano. The new playground will be open to the larger community during non-school hours, thanks to public funding for the project that is coming from the New Jersey Green Acres Program.
“Newark Public Schools is fortunate to have the support of our families and the many other partners who helped bring the new Lafayette Street School playground to fruition,” said Christopher Cerf, Superintendent of Newark Public Schools. “Based on our success working with The Trust for Public Land to create a positive learning and recreational space at Lafayette Street School, we are excited to explore additional ways to bring similar improvements to other schools throughout the district.”
Since 1995, The Trust for Public Land has worked to create park equity in Newark’s most vulnerable communities through its Parks for People program. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that everyone has access to a quality park within a half-mile—or a ten-minute walk—of home. To date, the Parks for People—Newark program has transformed 8 playgrounds and 4 parks in Newark’s least green neighborhoods, with over 95,000 Newark adults and children benefiting from a Trust for Public Land park within a 10-minute walk from home.
Working with Newark Public Schools and the City of Newark, The Trust for Public Land announced its Green, Healthy Schoolyards plan to expand its Newark playground program in an effort to ensure that all Newark children have access to a high quality park or playground. Support for The Trust for Public Land’s plan is being made possible by a leadership gift from The Prudential Foundation, and an early commitment from the PSEG Foundation and the New Jersey Green Acres Program to support the next schoolyard project.
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit http://www.tpl.org