We Love to see Play Streets Long Beach spreading block by block around the city of Long Beach. Play Streets Long Beach is a new resident-led initiative that empowers neighbors across Long Beach to temporarily transform their streets into accessible, car-free environments for neighbors of all ages to play safely and freely. It is a space where kids are able to embody healthy, active play, and where the shared street creates fresh opportunities for neighbors to connect and to build community. One thing we love about Play Streets LB is that it creates a space for intergenerational play, where aging neighbors can connect with children on their blocks. It could be through playing a game of catch together or even doing a puzzle together. We think that these intergenerational relationships have been lost in many places, and it something that we promise to recover.
I had the chance to recently interview Maria Gonzalez, a resident of the Grant neighborhood in North Long Beach, who led her first Play Street on her block with her incredible neighbors. We Love Long Beach loves to come alongside residents like Maria who are deeply rooted and invested in the safety and well being of her neighbors. My favorite part of the their Play Street was to see one neighbor start a dance party in the middle of the street. Neighbors of all ages danced with one another, and showcased some of their best moves. It was quite magical!
Scott Jones: Why did you want to host a Play Street on your street?
Maria Gonzalez: I’d read about the positive experiences in New York City in the early 1900s, and about it more recently in East Los Angeles, and I wanted to have that same experience in my neighborhood.
Scott: Were you nervous about hosting with neighbors you didn’t know? Why or why not?
Maria: I wasn’t nervous because my husband I had hosted several events at our home and knew the great majority of neighbors on our street.
Scott: What were the challenges you faced getting ready for the Play Streets?
Maria: My greatest challenge was obtaining the permit from the city. The process was unclear and communication from their office was extraordinarily poor.
Scott: What did you love about your Play Streets on your street?
Maria: I loved seeing all my neighbors – kids in particular – outside enjoying the games, food, and music.
Scott: What sort of things did the kids do on the Play Street?
Maria: We organized three competitive games with small prizes; several young boys played football; we had dance music; bubble machine; oversized legos; cornhole; horseshoe; scooters; bikes; and a highlight of the evening was watching an outdoor movie screening and offering popcorn.
Scott: How did your kids and neighbors’ kids respond to being able to play in the street?
Maria: They responded positively and took advantage of the closed street.
Scott: What is one story you can share about your Play Street experience?
Maria: Watching a group of kids play football in the middle of the street without fear of getting hit by a car. Seeing the joy in their faces made all of us parents so incredibly happy!
Scott: What surprised you about your Play Streets?
Maria: The turnout surprised me, as well as the overwhelming request to have another.
We want to thank Maria and all her neighbors for making Play Streets such a beautiful success. We can’t wait to see hundreds of Play Streets happening in every neighborhood of Long Beach on a regular basis!
You can donate to us to help further Play Streets citywide for all Long Beach neighbors. Please make a donation Here