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A New Kind of Playground for New York
Detail: New York City is developing a new kind of playground that replaces slides, swings and other stationary equipment with things that children can move and build and creatively engage with, through an unusual private-public partnership. The playground will transform a parking lot at Burling Slip in the South Street Historic District, an area that is attracting residents with children and yet has few playgrounds. The playground will have trained play workers, a concept already popular in Europe, on hand to help children interact with the many features such as water, ramp, sand, and other objects for imaginative play.

According to the designer, David Rockwell, who conceived of the project and designed the park at no charge, play is how children learn to build community, learn to work with other people, and learn to engage with the world through creativity. Roger Hart, director of the Children’s Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York consulted with the Rockwell Group and the city in developing the project.

The playground is a figure eight shaped landscape with sloping wooden ramps that connect a zone of sand with a zone of water. A structure for housing loose parts such as foam blocks, small boats, collections of tubing, elbows, and gaskets for construction projects, will be maintained and overseen by the play workers. The design also incorporates a system of pulleys and ropes for children to lift and transport objects, as well as a climbing net and shading sails that relate to the maritime history of its location.

The idea has the support of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Park officials are considering supplying other playgrounds with loose parts ranging from foam blocks and cardboard tubes to spindles and burlap bags. The city hopes if the idea catches on elsewhere, it could market playground products. The playground is open to the public though Mr. Rockwell, who is financing the play workers, is raising $2 million to cover the costs.
Source: Based on a story by Diane Cardwell, “New York Tries to Think Outside the Sandbox”, The New York Times, January 10, 2007.
Date: January 14 2007