PARKS & RECREATION/New York revamps its underused playgrounds
In an effort to expand recreational opportunities in the city, New York is reconstructing unused playgrounds throughout its five boroughs. Built between 1930 and 1960, many of the facilities are situated near schools and daycare centers. They have never been substantially repaired and have fallen out of use because of missing or broken equipment, sub-standard safety features and/or inadequate ADA-compliant components.
Playgrounds typically are the only outdoor recreation spaces in New York neighborhoods. As a result, the city is trying to ensure that the revamped facilities provide play opportunities for all age groups.
The “new” playgrounds will contain play units and swings for tots, as well as large units and exercise equipment for older children. Parents and senior citizens will be able to enjoy seating and game tables, and young adults will be able to play basketball and other court games.
Marine Park, Brooklyn, is one of the first neighborhoods to benefit from the reconstruction efforts. Completed earlier this year, its playground includes new tennis courts and basketball courts (augmented with a new drainage system and water service). Situated in the corner of a 798-acre park, the site also features new paths and seating areas surrounding London Plane trees.
The Parks & Recreation Department and various consultants are providing design and landscape architecture services for each of the projects. Community boards have worked closely with designers to define the scope of each job and to provide input on their communities’ recreational needs.
The scope of the projects can vary widely from site to site. Whereas Marine Park focused on court construction and landscaping, Wolfes Pond Park on Staten Island had more complicated demands. The beachfront park required wetlands delineation, bulkhead inspection and parking lot design. Recreational components were expanded to include tennis courts, a hockey rink, a tot lot and pedestrian paths. Additionally, life-size, bronze animal sculptures were placed throughout the park.
New York’s playground reconstruction is ongoing and part of a long-term plan to rehabilitate dozens of sites. O’Connor Playground (Queens); St. Nicholas Playground (Manhattan); Paerdegat Park (Brooklyn); three Crotona playgrounds and the Watson Gleason Playground (the Bronx) are on the design boards this year.
According to Vollmer Associates, a New York-based engineering firm assisting with the designs, the playgrounds are being modeled on recommendations from New York’s Agency for Child Development. The agency has published a design handbook, “A Developmental Approach,” that promotes playgrounds as extensions of the classroom. New York is designing each project site to include active and passive areas, play equipment, landscaping, site security and fences, safety surfacing, and step fountains (often decorated with animal-theme art). An 8-foot-wide path links the active and passive areas, and each site contains decorative pavement, new curbs and edging. Furthermore, the colors for safety surfaces and other equipment are being chosen to complement the colors of the school or daycare center associated with the playground.