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Are UWS Playground Conditions Dangerous? Parents Are At Odds

Some Say Playground Is A Hazard, Others Want It Repaired And Preserved

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A fight has erupted at Playground 89 on the Upper West Side, and it’s not the kids who have come to blows.

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, parents have been going at it amongst themselves. Some have said the playground along 89th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues is a breeding ground for danger, but others have said making changes on perceived safety grounds would be a huge mistake.

“My husband I counted three different times in a period of three months that we saw children going off to the emergency room,” said parent Ellen Archer.

Archer’s 5-year-old attends nearby P.S. 166, which uses the cobblestoned adventure playground for recess.

“The blocks are so unevenly spaced, and there’s so much room between them that the kids are catching their feet on them, and they’re literally falling head over heels on them,” said parent Christine DiPasquale.

Other parents have said leveling the area would be a bad idea for the kids.

“I would think it would not be very challenging for children or fun for them to play in,” said parent Stephanie Crossman.

The parent-teacher organization for P.S. 166 said after inspecting the playground, the Parks Department allocated $600,000 to make it safer by leveling the uneven surfaces.

“Our kids have one choice for recess,” Archer said. “And my feeling is if we only have one choice, it should be the safest choice.”

But Arlene Simon of the preservationist group Landmark West! said parents are overreacting.

“People just tend to be more cautious with their children in 2013,” Simon said.

Landmark West! wants to repair and save the character of the 15-year-old playground, designed by world-renowned architect Paul Friedberg.

The group has filed a lawsuit against the city for not giving the community a voice with a public hearing.

“It’s used by the community as well as the school, and so everyone — the school and the community — should have some input,” but there was really no opportunity for that,” Crossman said.

“In response to concerns raised by the local community, the Parks Department is developing a plan to renovate Playground 89,” a spokesperson with the City’s Law Department said. “These plans are still actively being developed and deliberated upon by [the Department of Parks and Recreation]’s staff, and no final design for the renovation has yet been approved by DPR. The City has agreed to give four weeks notice to the groups suing prior to any physical demolition or construction activities at the site. We believe this lawsuit is premature and that it lacks merit.”

While the lawsuit plays out, playground plans are at a standstill. That means a delay in renovations or repairs that could leave kids without a place to play when school resumes in the fall.

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