Reclaiming the alleys in Boyle Heights: A community effort converts blighted areas into play zones

Oct. 27, 2013 / By

The laughter of four barefoot boys fills the air as they race desk chairs — not in a park, but rather in an improvised backyard, which happens to be an alley in Boyle Heights.

The alley’s surface is newly paved and plain. But it’s a large improvement over its previous beaten-up, unpaved state. Old tires have been painted gold and mounted on the alley’s fences as planters, each holding bright geraniums.

For many kids in park-poor communities like Boyle Heights, not having a backyard to play in sometimes means not playing at all. What these communities do have are alleys. A lot of them. This is one reason why some city planners, community organizers and neighborhoods are looking at alleys as possible playgrounds and community gathering places.

“There’s about 20 kids that are always here, and they have to stay inside because there’s nothing they can do here,” says 15-year-old Stephanie Espinoza, a community volunteer. “They have no park nearby, and in the alleyway there were too many holes. That’s why we decided to help with the alley, so they would have a place to play near their houses.”

Unión de Vecinos, a non-profit that helps people improve their neighborhoods, sponsors a committee focused on transforming alleys in the Boyle Heights community. The organization gets input from residents and helps them create safe places.

Read more at Boyle Heights Beat

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