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$1.8 Million Play Space Opens At PS 223 In Queens As New York Road Runners Kick Off Marathon Week

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- To kickoff New York City Marathon Week, New York Road Runners are unveiling a series of charitable projects. One is a new school yard for students in Jamaica, Queens.

For the last several years, NYRR has teamed up with a nonprofit group to create more play spaces for kids. This is their 11th in the five boroughs, CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported Monday.

Young runners at P.S. 223 Community School said they won big when it came to their brand new school yard. It's officially open after a major upgrade.

"They love it... My friend, Isaac, he says that he loves the soft ground because he gets to build a grass snowman, he calls it," said third grader Jameel Ross.

When Principal Tekesha Babb started here two years ago, she said the yard used to be just tennis courts.

"What I noticed in the first few months is that the nurses office, there was constantly students coming in because they didn't have an area for them to play safely and to engage in structured opportunities for play," said Babb.

Now it's a dozen different play structures.

"It has an outdoor classroom, a garden that the students planted, and it has a stage for performances," said Mary Alice Lee, director of the nonprofit Trust for Public Land's New York City Playgrounds Program.

The students even got to help design this $1.8 million project.

Advocates said 28 million kids across the country have no access to park space. That inspired NYRR to team up with The Trust For Public Land to take existing empty schoolyards and revamp them for the entire community.

Kids, like Jameel, said they'll be able to run faster than ever now.

"Sometimes, I go around the track and it helps me remember that I'm fast, just like a cheetah," Jameel said.

Students said they're already training to run the New York City Marathon one day.

When school is out, the space is open to the entire neighborhood until it closes at dusk.

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