Students Get Involved In Community Planning
Over the summer RWA students took part in working with some of the nation’s leading planning and landscape architects to bring what they learn back to the Rockaway peninsula. Students went to the city to meet planners at AECOM to discuss their work with communities and nations throughout the world in order to better understand their process and how to get local communities involved in the planning process.
AECOM is presently working with RWA on a community planning process of mapping the Rockaway peninsula and designating areas of primary focus for the process. The students themselves have been collecting data in their neighborhoods and will be continuing these efforts through the academic year through the RWA afterschool program, school and community workshops.
Students also visited with landscape designers from Michael Van Valkenberg Associates, who are working on some of NYC’s most exciting park projects. Nik Elkovitch, of MVVA, led the students through the office to show the students the models and drawings being worked on for these projects. Nik brought the students on a behind the scenes tour of Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the students got a chance to play in the playground and try out the play equipment. Much of the park also has innovative drainage that cannot be seen under the beautiful green sloping hills that the designers created. But it showed the students how “open green space” can benefit the community through storm water drainage as well as the health benefits gained through outdoor recreation.
During the summer, the students used the CUNY on Wheels Bus on a weekly basis to do research and learn about the local geography of Rockaway, build models, and discover ways to create a more sustainable community. Students went to various sites throughout the city to gather research by playing in the playgrounds, going to museums, aquariums and environmental centers where they could see ways in which renewable energy, transportation alternatives, climate change and green space should be considerations used in creating an innovative community.
The students advocated for parks in the peninsula, by petitioning, and protesting with hoola hoops, footballs and kites in an effort to bring attention to the dire need for outdoor recreation, parks and public space in the Rockaways. While the students were there they collected bags of trash and made these spaces come alive just with their own activities, as they played baseball, flew kites and offered local residents lemonade as they collected signatures. “So much can be done with the underutilized public lots. Encouraging kids to get outside and be active will help to reduce many of the environmental health issues that have plagued the Rockaways for years,” said RWA Program Coordinator Elizabeth Manclark.
“After seeing all the great parks and playgrounds in other parts of NYC, it makes you really wonder why Rockaway has been shortchanged for so long. Maybe if people see kids like me getting involved, it will bring more attention to the Rockaway community,” said RWA youth Jadel Biteng.
In the coming months, RWA youth and local schools will be involved in the public space planning project being led by RWA. Trust for Public Land and Jonathan Rose & Co. will also play a lead role in facilitating listening sessions for the community to give input on the planning of all public space on the Rockaway peninsula. The input collected from these meetings will be documented in the Greater Rockaway Public Space Vision Plan which will be presented for public comment in November.
The first of three listening sessions will take place on Tuesday, September 28, 6:30 p.m., at Peninsula Hospital Meditation Room, focusing on the area from Beach 32 Street to Beach 101 Street. The second meeting will take place on Tuesday, October 5, 6:30 p.m. at St. John’s Hospital Cafeteria, focusing on the area from Beach 32 Street to Beach 3 Street. The final listening session will be for the area west of Beach 101 Street during the week of October 19 but has yet to be scheduled.
Any individuals or local schools interested in participating in the Greater Rockaway Public Space Vision Plan should contact RWA Program Coordinator Elizabeth Manclark at 718-327-5919 or register at: info@rwalliance. org