Originally published June 14, 2022 by Patch, Upper East Side, NY.

By Nick Garber

In a major victory for students and parents, the yearslong campaign to build a rooftop play area at a gym-less Upper East Side public school will finally bear fruit, with the newly passed city budget filling in the funding gap needed to get the project in motion.

For close to a decade, residents have been agitating for a play area at P.S. 290 Manhattan New School, on East 82nd Street near Second Avenue. The roughly 450 students at the well-respected school have no designated place for physical education — one of just eight schools out of 505 in Manhattan that have no such area, according to a 2018 report by Our Town.

Funds for the project have been allocated in bits and pieces over the years, including $1.5 million from former Councilmember Ben Kallos. But a gap of $5.5 million remained, so the project stalled — forcing kids to continue using East 82nd Street as a makeshift schoolyard during recess.

"It's not really that fair, because we've just got a street with nothing really to do," student Archer Haberman told NY1 in March.

But things will soon change: the new $101 billion city budget, passed by the City Council late Monday, includes $4 million in mayoral funding and $1.5 million allocated by City Councilmember Julie Menin to make the rooftop playspace a reality.

Costing $8 million in total, the project will now head to the city's School Construction Authority, which will meet with school leaders to determine the scope and design of the project.

"Fully funding the creation of a new rooftop play space is a hard fought victory for the P.S. 290 community," Menin told Patch in a statement. "I am especially proud to allocate $1.5 million in the City's budget toward the school's request and thank Mayor Eric Adams for allocating $4 million to bring this long overdue project to fruition."

The news was also hailed by P.S. 290 Principal Doreen Esposito, who said she was "beyond thrilled that the PS 290 Rooftop project is finally moving forward."

"From our first meeting with Council Member Menin, we knew that her expertise and experience in local government would move this project forward," Esposito said in a statement.

Besides funding from the mayor and Council, the project also includes $1 million from Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright.

Menin credited the victory to her relationship with Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo, with whom she previously worked to construct a public school in Lower Manhattan while Menin was chair of the neighborhood's community board.

The news will surely be welcome for organizers of Safe Play for PS 290 — a parent-led group that has reignited the rooftop push in recent months.

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