NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man has taken on a mission to turn trash into tools for children with physical challenges in schools across Brooklyn.
As CBS2’s Elise Finch reported Monday, Michael Konstalid has been a physical therapist with the New York City Department of Education for the past seven years.
He has made a name for himself by combining his physical therapy expertise with his love of carpentry – designing and building items such as lunch trays and therapy tables for students in wheelchairs, and special stairs and chairs for children with physical challenges.
The items help the students focus on their school work.
“You’re worried about losing your balance when you should be thinking about the math problem that you’re trying to solve,” Konstalid said.
Now, the 36-year-ild Brooklyn native builds adaptive furniture for public school children across the borough, using materials that would normally end up in the trash.
“I do this program with a zero-dollar budget,” Konstalid said. “The materials that I get are very tired pieces of furniture — broken; for whatever reason, they’re in basements collecting dust.”
Since the beginning of this school year, Konstalid has turned old broken, furniture into more than 70 new pieces of furniture for the children he works with.
“He made it special for me,” said Hassan, a kindergartner at P.S. 10 in Park Slope.
P.S. 10 is considered a barrier-free elementary school, so of the nearly 1,000 children who attend, about 15 percent have physical challenges. Hassan, 5, has balance problems and was having difficulty sitting in the same chairs his fellow kindergarten classmates use.
Now, he has a custom chair.
“It looks like a regular chair,” Hassan said. “It helps me do everything.”
“He could sit up straight, sit with his friends, and it didn’t look that much different from the furniture in the room,” said P.S. 10 principal Laura Scott. “That’s important to children.”
Konstalid said his creations are a group effort. He designs the special projects with fellow in-school physical therapists, and a number of his students help him paint his finished projects for other children as part of their therapy.
Most of the physical therapy projects are completed in two to four weeks. Sometimes, they are finished months faster than it would take to order special equipment – and they are, of course, cheaper.