City officials and community leaders broke ground on a new playground at Catherine and Count Basie Middle School 72 at 133-25 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard last week.
The ceremony kicked off reconstruction for the $2.5 million project, which is expected to finish by next April.
“A playground is a vital element of a child’s education. If it’s neglected, not only will it decay, but our young men and women’s minds and bodies will do the same,” said Councilman Ruben Wills. “The playground at Catherine and Count Basie had been lacking in upkeep for more than a decade, and its dilapidated condition came to attract attention from negative influences.”
The redesigned playground will include a synthetic field with a three-track lane, outdoor classroom and amphitheater, and interchangeable basketball and volleyball court.
According to Wills’s office, the playground had become a “den for illicit and undesirable” activity. Officials said Tuesday they hope the investment in a new playground will change that.
Wills and Borough President Melinda Katz both provided capital improvement grants to fund the project. In a statement, Katz said the overhaul at M.S. 72 was long overdue.
“Because of this funding the children and families of Rochdale will be able to enjoy a robust playground with athletic courts, track and fields and an outdoor amphitheater,” she said.
At the suggestion of the Rochdale Village board of directors, the playground will also have a new seven-foot steel gate fence, which will replace “compromised chain-link fencing,” according to Wills’s office. During non-school hours, the playground will be used as a park for the general public.
“We look forward to the future use of this new playground,” said Principal Omotayo Cineus, “which will afford the young people of Catherine and Count Basie Middle School social, emotional, athletic and academic experiences and memories.”