Photo Courtesy Comptroller Stringer’s Office
[O]ur City needs to overhaul the planning, construction, and maintenance of our playground system,” Stringer said.
By Forum Staff
There is a severe shortage of playgrounds in New York City, particularly in neighborhoods that have seen the fastest population growth, according to a report released on Saturday by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Access to playgrounds varies significantly across community districts, “State of Play: A New Model for NYC Playgrounds” notes, with some containing more than triple the number of playgrounds as others on a per child basis, and neighborhoods with the largest population of children — e.g. Richmond Hill, Corona, Bensonhurst, Borough Park, and Flatbush — having fewer than four NYC Parks playgrounds for every 10,000 children. And New York ranks 48th in playgrounds per capita among the 100 largest American cities; which, according to Stringer, is evidence that the City has not sufficiently invested in recreational facilities and failed to anticipate, prepare, and respond to shifting demographics.
Additionally, conditions at hundreds of NYC Parks playgrounds were found to be substandard during their latest inspections. In 2018, inspectors found that 521 NYC Parks playgrounds had at least one hazardous feature that required “immediate attention.” These included 807 “Priority 2 Hazards” that “present the chance of slight to moderate injury” and 29 “Priority 1 Hazards” that “present the chance of life-threatening or debilitating injury.”
Stringer called on NYC Parks to prioritize playground maintenance to ensure hazardous conditions are addressed through increased funding for maintenance and operations. These budget increases should be consistent with proposals outlined by the Play Fair Coalition — a consortium of more than 100 community-based organizations as well as NYC Parks employees.
The comptroller also outlined recommendations for reform in “State of Play,” including calling on the City to build 200 new playgrounds in the next five years. Many of these new facilities would be built through Stringer’s newly envisioned “Pavement to Playgrounds” program — a proposed partnership between NYC Parks, the City Department of Transportation, local nonprofits, and community boards — to construct playgrounds and plazas on lightly used residential blocks. Other recommendations from the report include dramatically expanding the successful “Schoolyards to Playgrounds” program; increasing resources for NYC Parks maintenance; developing stronger protections for “Jointly Operated Playgrounds” on City Department of Education property; and ensuring that playgrounds are designed to serve a wide range of ages to better promote learning, playing, and socializing.
“Playgrounds are essential public spaces, offering children a place to socialize, learn, be active, and exercise their imaginations. They are also spaces for children and families to meet their neighbors and develop strong bonds. But our findings reveal stark disparities in access to these critical public spaces in New York City,” Stringer added. “That’s why our City needs to overhaul the planning, construction, and maintenance of our playground system. We can make a major impact on the lives and health of New York City children by substantially expanding the number of playgrounds in neighborhoods that are in dire need of these spaces, while also ensuring they are well-maintained and safe for every child.”