News: Renovated Asser Levy Playground Opens, Dumbo Arts Fest Calls it Quits, Disney Frozen News

2/4/15 - By Alina Adams

It's a grab bag of good and bad news this week. Let's start with the good: After a long renovation, the popular Asser Levy Playground has reopened, Disney revealed a featurette about its upcoming Frozen animated short and there's a new indoor play space growing in Brooklyn. Now the bad: One of our favorite FREE annual family festivals, the Dumbo Arts Fest, has called it quits after 18 years! We've got the details on all those stories and more in this edition of our biweekly news roundup.


Openings, closings & expansions After a $1.5 million, multiyear renovation, the popular Asser Levy Playground has reopened. Stretching from East 23rd to East 25th Street along the FDR Drive, the spot has lots of new enhancements like a synthetic turf field, an exercise track, fitness equipment, benches and tables, and more drinking fountains.

This spring (it's not too early to dream of spring, is it?) the Brooklyn Botanic Garden will unveil its expanded Discovery Garden, where kids can enjoy hands-on planting activities and explore model woodland, meadow and marsh habitats. Family programming will include drop-in educational sessions, portable field guides and interactive science stations. Mark your calendar for the grand opening festivities on Saturday, June 6!!

A new indoor play space grows in Brooklyn. This summer, a pair of local moms plan to open Recess d.u.m.b.o. in the former Pomme space at 81 Washington Street. Aimed at children ages six months to six years with classes and parties seven days a week, the romping spot will offer memberships as well as daily drop-in options.

Our other Dumbo news isn't as sweet: Last week, the organizers of the lauded Dumbo Arts Festival announced they were pulling the plug on the event after 18 years. Why? Because it became too popular (more than 200,000 people attended last year!) and the artists it celebrated have, by and large, left the neighborhood due to (wait for it...) gentrification. It is rather pointless to hold a festival celebrating what the area used to be, rather than what it is now. We won't lie, this loss hurts.

New seasonal fun in snow or sun Snow days aren't just for indoor creative fun. The next time the white stuff comes down, hit the High Line for its ongoing Snow Sculpt-Off. To enter, families can build a snowman or other masterpiece, snap a photo and share it on social media with the hashtags #SculptOff and #Family. On Sunday, March 1, all entries will go to a panel of judges, who will announce the winners on March 16. Prizes come from The Standard Hotel, Chelsea Piers, REI and more so you get more than just glory!

And looking ahead to summer (why not?), there's a chance that NYC beach season may extend beyond Labor Day this year. A bill has been introduced in the City Council that would require beaches and pools to stay open every day until the first day of public school, and then on weekends through the end of September. Considering how hot the first few weeks of the school year often are, it's a move that's been a long time coming.

Refreshingly random We don't write much about stores on our site beyond encouraging our readers to shop at local small businesses. But J.Crew's new line of American Museum of Natural History-inspired graphic tees for kids is worthy of a shout-out. Dino tees never go out of style.

New after-school programs are debuting all the time, so it's hard to really stand out. But a new offering at Prospect Park's Lakeside rink certainly got our attention: Geared to ages 9 to 15, Sports as Art invites participants to invent a brand-new ice sport via collaborative game design, role playing and costume making, and a final demo. Who knows, your kid just may be the next Katharine Whitney Curtis (the genius who gave us synchronized swimming).

Got an aspiring author in your home? Students in kindergarten through third grade are invited to enter their stories and illustrations to the annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest. There are a bunch of rules but overall it's pretty straightforward: Kids can submit their stories to their local PBS affiliate (hi channel Thirteen!), and finalists will get a chance to compete nationally for some great prizes like tablets and MP3 players. The deadline is Tuesday, March 31 so get creating!

School news School complaints will (hopefully) no longer fall on deaf ears thanks to an upcoming Department of Education reorg. Starting later this year, if your child has a problem that can't be resolved at the school level, district superintendents will have the authority to fix a variety of issues, with principals required to answer to them. Whether they will or not, is a different matter. Try it, and let us know what happens!

If you've been getting the academic runaround when it comes to dealing with your 2e child (both gifted and learning disabled), you might get some ideas for what to do next at NYC's first-ever Breaking Through Walls: Breakthroughs in Twice Exceptional Education Conference hosted by the Quad Prep School on Saturday, March 7 at Cooper Union. Interested? Buy your tickets here.

Disney news Frozen fever shows no signs of slowing. I know many kids who are begging their parents to take them to see Disney's live-action Cinderella next month just because it will be preceded by a Frozen short. To get your kids more excited (as if that's even possible), you can share this making of featurette, although it's really just a 90-second ad.

Personally, I preferred this Frozen/50 Shades of Grey mash-up but um, can't share that with the kids!

And finally, the House of Mouse has found its new Belle! Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame will star in a live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. No word on who will be her beastly beau.