The World Hangs Out in Flatbush

August 16, 2013

At the corner of Coney Island Avenue and Newkirk Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn stands P.S. 217 Colonel David Marcus School. The school is closed but the playground adjacent to it serves as a public park for the summer. It is the perfect place for friends and family to get together.

On one side of the playground, children ranging from toddlers to seven years old play on the jungle gym and slides. Two women wearing niqabs are perched on a bench engaging in conversation while keeping an eye on the blue bicycle parked next to them. Other parents keep a steady hand nearby as their child attempts to climb up ladders. A South Asian father holds his son up and helps him slowly swing from one monkey bar handle to another. His daughter waits impatiently on the ground for her turn.

There are several veiled women who sit on benches. They rock their babies in their arms and chide their other children when they get too rowdy on the slides. Most of the time, though, the mothers are relaxed and chatting, enjoying the beautiful weather. Some of them are speaking Hebrew. Others are speaking in Arabic.

A man drags an ice cream cart across the playground. He settles in one corner and leans against the wall ringing a bell idly in his hand. No one is paying him any attention, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

On the other side of the playground, are two basketball hoops and a small lawn with a track field surrounding it. There are two separate basketball games going on. One of the games has six players: two are Caucasian, two are African American, and the other two are South Asian. This would be the perfect game to photograph for one of those “diverse” college brochures.

A couple of girls sit at a table and write in their notebooks with their heads bent down. They are the only ones who appear to be involved in a serious activity. By late afternoon, the playground is packed with children running, riding their bicycles, and zipping by on their scooters.

“I hit you! You’re it!” yells a Hispanic boy as he darts away from his friend.

The ice cream man is now collecting money from a small crowd of boys and girls and handing out ice cream bars.

A sizeable group of South Asian teenagers all wearing green clothing walk briskly by the playground, talking excitedly. They cross the street and head towards the Halal Chinese Afghani Cuisine restaurant. Today is August 14, 2013, Pakistan’s independence day. The green clothing is worn in celebration for this day. Next to the restaurant are Punjab pharmacy, Lahori Chilli, and further down Coney Island Avenue is an Orthodox Jewish school called Congregation Agudath Sholom School.

Three African American teenage boys who epitomize the very definition of “hipster” roll into the playground on their skateboards. After a few turns around the small track field, one of them shows a young Hispanic boy some tricks on his skateboard. The young boy smiles and looks on in awe. The older boy then slides the skateboard towards him to try out for himself.

The young boy skates across the playground over a large-scale painting of a world map on the pavement. Clearly, the artwork goes well with this neighborhood.

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