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Rochester neighborhoods shut down streets for play

Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

A pilot program is giving kids the chance to play in the streets safely this summer.

PlayROCs Play Streets is a resident driven program that turns neighborhood blocks into safe play areas.

Jackie Graham helped get Treyer Street closed for a few hours each day for the last two weeks; she said she saw kids in her neighborhood not having much to do in the summer.

"I notice that when we're not organizing a play date, they're sad, they're mopey, they're sitting around. But as soon as they see us they're excited they're ready to come play."

The PlayROCs initiative works with neighborhood coalitions to overcome existing barriers to play. They found that many children in the city are already playing in the street more than they are on playgrounds and designated "play" areas.

So why not make those streets safer? Evette Colon also helped organize Treyer Street play days. She lives across from a vacant lot on that block.

Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News
Vacant lot on Treyer Street

"Last year we had about 30 people hanging here who didn’t reside in our neighborhood, selling drugs, doing things that were not cool in front of the kids."

She said now with a permit from the city, they have movie nights, playROC events and birthday parties in that spot.

The PlayROC events bring toys, crafts and lunch to neighborhoods that participate. 

Colon hopes that with the success of the pilot program, other neighborhoods will see the value in play.

"It’s a safe play here. They all know each other, they all crack jokes, if they're sad we listen to them."

Any street can become a play street. Residents can go through the City of Rochester Special Events department, with signatures from neighbors approving the street closure.