Unsafe Playground Has Parents Worried
Most kids get bumps and bruises during playtime. But at P.S. 166, recess has turned dangerous. In the past year, four kids have gotten concussions, and several more were sent to the hospital, all because of the West 89th Street playground's unorthodox design.
"Kids do get hurt, kids do play hard, but we do bear some responsibility as a community to make sure that the space they are playing in isn't inherently dangerous," said Christine DiPasquale, parent coordinator of P.S. 166.
The public playground at West 89th Street is divided into two areas. On the far side is an elaborate playset and jungle gym. But in the middle is a concrete playing area with two levels divided by dramatically sloping, uneven granite stones. It is very difficult to walk, let alone run, on the wobbly terrain.
To make matters worse, after a rainstorm, the stones become perilously slippery, and after a snowstorm, the cracks between them become icy and loosen. The kids, DiPasquale said, will try to pick up the stones and throw them. In fact, last year after a snowstorm, the playground had to close for two months so that the Parks Department could remove the snow and ice.
"It's uneven, they have to shovel it by hand," said DiPasquale. "And Gale Brewer had people come in to hand chip away the ice."
Even when the playground is dry, children have fallen on these stones, said DiPasquale, and gotten gashes and concussions as a result. One parent, Laurie Frey, recalls how her daughter had to miss a lot of school this year because of an injury on the playground.
"It's very scary to see your child dazed enough she cannot remember what happened, that she finds it difficult to walk or sit up and with such head pain the tears keep falling," said Frey. "We had to miss Thanksgiving, But I'm grateful it wasn't worse."
The West 89th Street playground was built in the first half of the 20th century, and has undergone renovations since. But, said DiPasquale, the one thing that has remained the same, has been the sloping granite stones. Last year, P.S. 166 invited Council Member Gale Brewer and Borough President Scott Stringer to survey the West 89th Street playground. Almost immediately, they saw the problem with the design. Brewer, Stringer and the Parks Department granted the school $600,000 to do a safety renovation and level the playground.
"It's a lovely playground, but it really has become a problem," said Brewer. "When you run on these stones, you're going to trip."
Brewer said that she hopes that the playground will be renovated by 2014, although they are trying to push the project up to the summer, and said that while the playground is under construction, the children will still have recess. DiPasquale said that the last she heard, the Parks Department will have the playground up to safety standards by the summer.
"I don't believe we're asking for a lot," said DiPasquale. "We just want a safe play space for our school."
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