ADVOCATE: The GW Natural Playscape Project April 1st, 2013

murergarden playground 2

The GW PTO Natural Playscape committee  put in a $15,000 grant application for the Community Development Block Grant Funding offered through the City of Kingston. The next public meeting where the Community Development Committee will hear from those that have submitted for funding and the public in general will be held on MONDAY, APRIL 1st, 2013 at 7:00pm.  The location will be at Kingston City Hall  420 Broadway in council chambers located on the top floor of the building.

GW Parents, please come in support of the project. If you have not yet had a chance to read the proposal or the budget, you can do so by visiting the GW PTO NATURAL PLAYSCAPE COMMITTEE’s page.

Here is a testimony given by GW Parent Jennifer Schwartz-Berky at the first public meeting on February 25th on behalf of the project.  We need every voice! Please come out in support.

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Jennifer Schwartz Berky testimony for GW Montessori Natural Playscape CDBG Funding Request

February 25, 2013

I am here as a resident of Kingston, a parent of a boy at GW Montessori, and a professional urban planner who frequently volunteers in support of this city.  The Community Development Block Grant funds for the development of a natural playscape at the GW Montessori school has numerous merits that meet the CDBG goals of revitalizing neighborhoods, economic development, and providing improved community facilities and services.  There are probably scores of reasons that this is important, including the hundreds of neighborhood children who attend this school, their families, and siblings.  Here are possibly the top 10 reasons, all of which are important environmentally, socially and economically:

  1. CDBG Program Priorities: This project meets the CDBG program’s guidelines of giving “maximum feasible priority to activities which benefit low- and moderate-income persons” and “aid in the prevention or elimination of slums or blight.” This project will support “the construction of public facilities and improvements,” another high priority for CDBG.
  2. Environmental Justice: The majority of the school’s population lives in one of the City’s lowest income census tract (9520).  According to the State and Federal definitions of “Environmental Justice,” this neighborhood qualifies for additional consideration in public funding decisions.
  3. Economic Development and Amenities: The Midtown neighborhood has the fewest outdoor per capita in the entire city of Kingston.  Neighborhood amenities support economic development.
  4. Stormwater Control and
  5. Reduced Economic Damages: The school’s hardscape is (or once was) a “delta” where numerous surface water and underground streams flowed from the watershed on the opposite side of Washington Avenue.  The majority of the site is asphalt, which contributes to poor drainage and erosion control.  We have seen the damage this does during heavy rains and the increased precipitation over the last decade as the homes in Delta Place flood and the sinkhole has developed.  The project’s goal of removing the asphalt to generate better drainage will be good environmentally and economically for the surrounding neighborhood.
  6. Environmental Education: As the playscape is intended to bring in environmental education features, the space can provide much needed environmental education opportunities for the entire Kingston City School District and community at large.
  7. Shared Services: The playground will support of the City’s Parks and Recreation program as a “shared service.”  Taxpayers benefit from these synergies.
  8. Nature Deficit Disorder: This concept, from Richard Louv’s 2005 book Last Child in the Woods asserts that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems.
  9. Eligibility for Grants: The award of this grant will allow the GW PTO to organize and develop this project, which will be a harbinger of more change in the school and surrounding community.  This CDBG will enable our growing and dynamic group of parents to create a space that will also GW school to become eligible for future grants from external revenue sources that reward such community organizing and community development activities for underserved children and neighborhoods.
  10. Community Support and Cohesion: The GW playscape and the people organizing it represent a long-deserved opportunity for Kingston to focus energy and support upon the families and well-being of the Midtown neighborhood.

To conclude,  this CDBG funding request represents a great opportunity for Kingston to use its funds for an initiative that can fulfill the true purpose of community development: to create lasting transformation in the places that need it most.