One sweltering North Philly block finds relief with Play Street

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Kids enjoying Play Street on Ferguson's block. Photo by Clem Murray, Inquirer Staff

From her front steps yesterday, Frances Ferguson, 72, hovered and watched as dozens of kids played unfettered in the middle of the street, squealing and splashing.

Ferguson's block, the 2300 block of Nicholas Street in North Philly, is now a Play Street.

Through the city recreation department program, Ferguson applied for a permit to have her narrow, one-way street cordoned off from 10 am to 4 pm. Then she and her neighbors pitched in to buy five inflatable pools.

"It’s hot," said Ferguson, the longtime block captain, who has lived on Nicholas Street all of her life. "And the kids, they don’t have much to do around here, just run up and down the street. I figured I could give them some free time."

The rec department provides free lunch, usually sandwiches, fruit, milk and juice, and a snack, through a state subsidy. The program has been around for decades, with about 800 Play Streets throughout the city.

Ferguson’s block joined this summer.

With students out of school, Ferguson hopes to also provide them with some board games, toys, and maybe even a few big wheels.

"We try to get dollar store toys for them," she said, "but they don’t last too long."

For now, she’s content.

Today, watching dozens of kids swim, laugh and play on her street, she noted, "they seem to be having a pretty good time."

For more information on Play Streets, contact the Recreation Department at 215.685.2719.

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