“Why NYC’s Newest Playgrounds are a Hazard to Our Kids”
I am going to rant — I warn you. And it has nothing to do with food. It has to do with the other part of my life. The “mom” part, which these days, is really all of my life.
Emily and I journeyed to Union Square Playground today, a playground that cost our city almost $3.8 million to build. Umm, how shall I say this tactfully? What a mistake! Sure there were some very cool gizmos and doo-dads, but Emily could not use any of them. Why? “TOO HOT! “As she said, several times after touching them and pulling her hands back quickly as though she had been pulling them out of a hot oven.
Here’s a question I’d like an answer to: Does anyone who designs playgrounds actually think about the fact that little kids aren’t into getting blistered sunburns or that they might not want to scorch their feet in sandboxes or their legs on slides because the sun has turned them into virtual skillets? I don’t need to fry my eggs and bacon for breakfast on a slide. I can do it at home, thanks!
Union Square Playground was a heat hazard today (Note: it’s only May). Moms, dads, and various caregivers were huddled under what shade could be found like refugees from a hurricane, sending their kids out and calling them back from more sunscreen and water, no one able to enjoy the park because it was the Sahara at noon. For a park covered in the lovely canopy of old oak trees, they stuck the playground in the north end in a space with NO SHADE at all.
That climbing dome of silver in the Union Square “Wonderland” that NY Magazine raved about? It’s a heat-seeking missile. It can’t be used because of the sun’s direct rays, so, after the fact, they added a sail over the top to partially shade it, and now only half of it is usable. Can we get half our money back?
Why not just burn our tax dollars instead of spending it on hiring fancy architects who can’t design a playground and think about the logistics of sun and shade? How about adding an umbrella (or 10) so that we can play without risk of frying to an overdone crisp. If you can’t play on their fancy designs in the summertime what good are they?
Brooklyn’s well-publicized Pier 6, which I live quite close to, is even worse. There’s a giant sandbox, a place called Sandbox Village, which sounds very sweet and fun, but it’s Death Valley. The place is big enough for about fifty kids and their entourage of various nannys and parents, but as soon as the summer temps hit 80, you can’t sit in it. The sandbox becomes a fire pit. Plus, there are the boulders that dot the sand’s surface. They often get covered up by the sand that gets kicked around, so this is a common scene: Hey, friend, let’s run to the other side of the sandbox, oops, giant boulder, trip, fall, forehead hits rock. Lovely! They should keep a team of Paramedics nearby to stitch kids up. I am being completely serious.
Did I mention the rocky runways that line the perimeter of the sandbox that seem to actually trip kids and scrape their knees up and good (with little pebbles that get buried deep in the nooks and crannies of their skinned knees which make for lots of fun in the clean-up stage), and the uneven wooden deck which also seems designed for implementing the most falls per hour (plus they burn your feet). Oh, I could go on and on. Okay, I will.
The neighboring playground, Swing Valley, is just as bad –dozens of fun swings, from ropes to tires, but not one tree to shade you from the sun. It’s just not usable as a practical matter unless you are immune to the sun’s rays.
These new playgrounds may look pretty and may seem fantastic but they are useless, and what’s more a waste of money. Spend it on our schools. Spend it on our libraries. Spent it on free ice cream! Spend it on something that makes sense and won’t hurt our kids who just want to play and have fun in the summertime. (How about a bulk order of umbrellas from Crate and Barrell, to start?)
For the most shade and fun, stick to the old parks, without the fancy architects, places like Pierrepont Playground, and Harry Chapin Playground. Places with lots of shade, lots of fun and no eggs frying on the slides.
Thank you. Rant over.