2007-09-14 / Columnists

Smith Speaks From Albany

Kids Take A Bite Out Of The Big Apple
Commentary From The Desk Of Senator Malcolm Smith Minority Leader New York State Senate

MALCOM SMITH MALCOM SMITH It is time to get back to basics by encouraging our children to stay fit and get exercise. Now, the city has plan to do just that by renovating our schoolyards.

Exercise not only produces active bodies, but active minds as well. Long before the internet, video games, and 200-channel cable television, entertainment options typically involved physical activity. In many cases, children grabbed a ball of any kind and joined their friends in a game of baseball, football or basketball. They probably weren't aware of the fact that they were getting exercise, because they were having fun.

Today, most children still play ball, climb on the jungle gym, or swing on the monkey bars. But not as often as they should. Some have opted for a more sedentary lifestyle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of U.S. children are overweight or at-risk of becoming overweight, leaving them susceptible to diabetes and other major health problems.

Providing children with opportunities to run, jump and swing is critical to stopping the childhood obesity epidemic. Easy access to play areas will give children more of an incentive to turn off the TV and go outside. But many playgrounds are on public school grounds, which are closed after the final bell and on weekends, locking out youngsters who would get the greatest benefit from them.

So, I was encouraged to hear about the city's announcement of the allocation of $1.2 billion in funding for recreation and greening initiatives - with $111 million going to improving school playgrounds throughout the city. It's all part of the PlaNYC initiative for creating a cleaner and sustainable city by the year 2030. I wholeheartedly endorse this plan.

I was especially pleased that 10 schools in my district will benefit from these funds, including P.S. 38, P.S. 86, P.S. 106, P.S. 114, P.S. 116, P.S. 117, P.S. 118, P.S. 136, P.S. 138 and P.S. 268.

With new equipment and other improvements, schools will be able to open their playgrounds on a much longer basis, making it possible for families to be within walking distance from a safe, clean environment in which to play, exercise and just have fun.

And, since our neighborhoods will greatly benefit from such makeovers, community residents will work with the Department of Education and the Parks Department to draw up plans on how to best utilize these areas. The goal is to have 290 such school yards overhauled by 2010. Sixty-nine have already been opened, and that's just the beginning.

Making New York an environmentally better place to live and work will take some bold steps. The revitalization and opening of school playgrounds is one such step that will make creating a generation of healthier children as simple as child's play.

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