About us

The Downing Street Playgroup is a non-profit cooperative preschool, licensed by the New York City Department of Health. Downing Street is a member of The Parents League, and has been in existence for over 40 years. We believe that education should be a partnership between families and educators and we are looking for families who would like to be involved.


As a parent cooperative, parents serve as parent-teachers once a month. We also manage the administrative and financial duties. To keep us all involved in the progress and challenges of the school, we have monthly meetings for one hour in the evening. Beyond seeking families who want to be involved, we seek a diverse population in our school community.


We actively encourage applications from families of all backgrounds. Every kind of family constellation is welcomed and treated with respect. As the parent body runs the school, we all take part in creating our goal of offering high-quality, low-tuition preschool education to the children of the community.


The Downing Street Playgroup was conceived during the summer of 1969 by Mary Spilotros and Margaret Hable, two mothers with preschool-aged children living in the general neighborhood of the Downing Street Playground. After numerous conversations with other parents they realized that there was an interest and need for a cooperative effort to provide a playgroup atmosphere for their children.


Spilotros and Hable were made aware of the existence of a second floor room in the playground building that was being used as a workroom and storage area for the City Puppeteer. Several local officials and other interested individuals acted on the Playgroup's behalf to contact the New York City Administration. After extensive discussions with various City officials, the puppeteer relocated to a comparable facility and terms were finalized in which the City allowed our preschool to use and occupy the premises of the second floor room, our present location.


By allowing neighborhood residents the free use of NYC property to operate a quasi-private playgroup, The Downing Street Playgroup posed a unique challenge to municipal officials. It was decided that enrollment would be open to neighborhood children and that the expenses for a director, personnel or equipment would not be the responsibility of the City but solely that of the group. The City could not ethically allow the playgroup to use the building for restricted or private functions. Hence, the City's insistence upon the widest possible publicity in the neighborhood and its further insistence that as vacancies occurred, every effort be expended to enroll as many children as the park room could accommodate—fifteen.