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Monday, September 23, 2013

Update On New Roosevelt Island Blackwell Park Playground - RIOC Sends A Response To Equipment Safety Concerns From Parents But Does Not Address Issue Of Toddler Safety From Older Kids

A Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) representative responded today to some of the concerns raised by Roosevelt Island parents to the new Blackwell Park playground

Roosevelt Island Blackwell Park Playground This Afternoon

that opened last Thursday. These concerns, as expressed by Avery on Playground Grand Opening post, are:
it's a beautiful new park, and the shaded location is wonderful. The kids seem to be having a great time. As the mother of a soon-to-be toddler though, I'm so sad to see the old tot lot go, and I know that several other parents of toddlers feel the same. The new play structure is rated for children 5-12, and is definitely way to big for the 2-3 year olds. The only equipment for the little ones are a low swing and some balance boards, but these are not physically separated from the big kids area so are being used by the big kids, which push the little ones away. Also, we are down to only one bucket swing now, which is sad. Anyway, it's a shame that there are so many playgrounds for kids 5+ on the island, but we have lost the only one for kids 1-5. Can I hope that the old tot lot equipment will reappear somewhere else on the island?
Saw another parent walking off with a screw their child had found in the playground today. They seem to all be falling out from underneath the balance boards.The gate to the swings is now stuck open and wedged on the ground.
The RIOC representative sent the following email concerning issues raised about the new Blackwell Park playground:
I am reaching out to the various island community leaders to inform them that we have been notified that there have been two issues reported to RIOC regarding the new playground. As soon as I received this information, I reported it back to the responsible parties. The update was provided to me:

1) Broken Latch to entry gate: the latch that is broken is not the main gate, but rather the latch on the disabled accessible gate leading to the swings. It was picked up this morning and will have new reinforcements put in. It is believed that kids and or adults are hanging on the gate because it has a wide arc (for wheelchairs). The installer was instructed to stiffen the entire gate just in case this theory is in fact true. It will be reinstalled this week.

2) Screws Found near balance board apparatus: The bolts in question are believed to originate from two of the gray base pads of the balancer (the small play equipment to help kids learn to balance). Although this should have not occurred, this does not affect safety or use but is definitely a high priority to be replaced. The playground equipment installer is scheduled to make repairs tomorrow with replacement bolts for all of the equipment and will a) replace the balancer missing bolts and b) confirm that all other equipment bolts are in and secured.
Roosevelt Island parent Luisana Santana provides this report on last Thursday's Blackwell Park Playground Opening Day.
“Everyone loves a new playground” were the remarks of the president of the Roosevelt Island Resident Association, Ellen Polivy

minutes before the Grand Opening of The Blackwell Park Children’s Playground. Children and their parents had obviously been anticipating the grand opening of this playground whose construction started on June 2013 by Monadnock Construction.

Fay Christian, RIOC Board of Directors,

made the opening speech addressing the issues that gave birth to the project. This new location of the playground is really part of the original plans of the Southtown Development. “RIOC was instrumental in approving the project and working closely with Hudson/Related to assure that safety concerns from parents of the community were addressed” as stated by Erica Spencer-El, RIOC Director of Community Relations, in an email.

The brand new playground features equipment to suit a wide variety of children from 6 months to 8 years old. Addressing a previous issue of parents having to leave the Tot lot and walk to another playground in order for older children to play. There were no woodchips on site and the playground pavement was of rubber flooring, this floor is very safe for kids of all ages. There is enough space outside the playground for parents to leave their strollers and enough benches on site. Natural shades is also provided by the trees all around the playground enclosing it in a cocoon of shade and the warm breeze that only Roosevelt Island brings.

Fay addressed this new playground location as the“perfect spot” and I remember playing on these grounds as a kid and my favorite part of The Island is where the new playground is. Now that I think of it, I loved that place because of the breeze these trees bring on a hot summer day and I am glad that no tree was sacrificed in order to make the new playground.

The area is very peaceful to spend some play time with the young children in your family. Now, I just hope that all the safety concerns were really addressed and parents would feel much more relaxed as their children play in this new playground.
Roosevelt Island parent Susana del Campo Perea describes her experience at the new playground:
My daughter was eager to get into the playground since last Saturday. She even threw a fit to be let in, but of course Daddy didn't have the key to unlock the gate and we finally convinced her that Thursday, the Grand Opening, was around the corner. My 20 month old girl just wants to play in the new blue and yellow attraction.

So Thursday 9/19 arrives, and she is taking her nap late. We didn't make it to the formal inauguration. so? We still went later to enjoy the first day of the new tot-lot..... Mmmmhhh Pardon me, but the new playground is designed exclusively for children over 5 years old. Like all the rest of the EXISTENT ones in Roosevelt Island (RI)

We got to the gate of Blackwell Park around 6:00 pm 9/19. My daughter was a happy camper. We had to leave the stroller outside due to the large amount of persons (3/4 kids, 1/4 adults) inside the playground. My "diaper bag" (a Tram tote bag) hangs from my stroller with my apt keys, my wallet, my cell phone and the essentials that every parent needs to take care of a toddler, had to be left outside. There's so much I can do to help my daughter in the new playground, being 7 months pregnant and carrying the diaper bag at the same time.

There was a "balloon guy" inside the playground, doing all kind of balloon shapes for the kids. Of course, with a charge. The most popular things we saw, pirate spades.

My daughter lets go of my hand and runs towards the steps of the slide. Great. She had no issue climbing and she is very happy. All of a sudden, her smile change to grim. Older kids (between 8 -12) were running up and down the structure, pushing everyone they found on their way. My daughter is a casualty of this. These kids even stepped on a toddler's fingers. They don't even notice, they are to busy playing to be pirates. Of course, that's when mom steps in. I started telling every single kid old enough to behave and understand that pushes my daughter to be careful, that she is very young. So she is happy, nervous and smart enough not to let go of the handrail of the structure. So she is down the first slide: the spiral one. Success!!

She goes back up again and again and again. The only thing is that she is being Bullied by the older kids. They push her down the slide, they cut into her when she is about to go down the slide, they frightened her cause they are climbing the slide from the bottom up... several times. She can't take it anymore. She is hit by an older boy (around the age of 10) that decided to throw his Hot-wheels car from the bottom of the toboggan slide all the way up. She is upset, she doesn't know what happened, she didn't see it coming, mom didn't see it coming. I was too busy instructing the kids not to push her down the toboggan slide, neither cutting her turn when this metallic car hit her cheek!!! I grab the car and throw it away. Grab my kid the best way I could, cause this structure is not even parent accessible to be able to grab our kids in case of an accident. I have this baby bump, and it was very difficult to reach for my daugther.

As I am getting her away of the mayhem of the slides, near the 2 big chunk of plastic designed supposedly for 6-24 month old, I look around and as I count grown-ups (total of 12) I see that the swings are being used by teenagers (or very tall kids). The 4 swings are being use by older kids. They barely fit inside the ONLY TODDLER SWING in the whole Island. And then another 2 girls standing on top of the "special needs" toddler swing. And I noticed that the chains that support this one from the top rail are different and thinner than the other 3 swings.

My daughter tried the 2 blue structures for toddlers.

She can barely stand up on this things. They are crooked, they are rounded, incline to one side. She is investigating what this things are when the older kids start running around, chasing each other. She gets frightened. Too frightened from all the yelling and the giants coming after her again. She started crying and run towards the door, I am calmly waiting to see what is she trying to do. And then I panicked: THE DOOR IS OPEN! Some kids around 6-9 years old came inside the playground and left the door open (no adult coming before them or after them, they were ALONE)... My dauaghter is almost out when I reached out and was able to grab her hoodie. She is desperate to get out... is too much for her. Older Kids keep coming in and out, and they do not care about the gate being closed. So parents, like me trying to console my daughter, keep closing the gate more times that we can count. Finally, my daughter calms down and wants to try the slides again.

Here we go. I tell her: Don't let the older kids bully you. If you are pushed, tell NO NO to them and don't let go the handrail. So she is still being pushed and ran down by older kids. I keep thinking: weren't we supposed to get a REPLACEMENT for the TODDLER PLAYGROUND? WHY DID WE GET ANOTHER CHILDREN PLAYGROUND? We already have 5 in the island...

The tot-lot was the only playground with TODDLER slides and steps, and was easy accesible for parents to grab their kid in case on an accident or a sudden fit/tantrum. With this new structure it is totally unaccessible to ACT FAST!!!

So here's my daughter getting familiar with the structure when she suddenly peaks out from one of the top "holes".... "Oh No!! don't do it!! Keep walking!!" I yelled to her. She is all smiles trying to copy what OLDER kids do, she is gonna fall down. I can't climb to get her, I am PREGNANT. I raised my arms, DAMN I can only reach her shins, barely. My heart is accelerated. No parent around to help me, I can't keep the eyes on my daughter. It is too high. I am 5' 7" (1.70 m) and I can't reach her, I can't climb. What if she falls down cause her head is what weights more than the rest of her body (this is science not something I made up), what if an older kid playing pushes her and she falls down? Finally she decided to come down through the structure and the same way she went up. Daddy arrives, I am saved, my daughter is saved I can start breathing again.

Daddy keeps her on track on the slides and helps her avoiding the NOT Safe stairs with all this older kids running up and down. I am sitting down, just talking with the few grown ups that I already know.

All the dads and moms  are telling me: what a waste! the tot-lot was perfect for our kids and in this new (playground) everything is too big for them, it is unsafe. They can't climb up by themselves and we have to deal with 10 yrs old bullying our kids. A long time resident, 17 yrs living in RI, with a 3 yr old girl is telling me: What is the point of having 2 playgrounds, almost identical, a few feet away of each other, meant for older kids. I don't want my 3 yr old playing with almost TEENAGERS and being push around by older kids. Their parents are not here, so they can do as they pleased.

Our excursion to the playground the day of the formal inauguration was between 6:00pm to 7:15pm

The next day, we went there again. With the older kids at school and close to naptime it will be better for my daughter. It was!! Her friends were there: 3 toddlers 3yrs old, a 17 month old girl and several other kids around her age (Well, I should say the usual crowd age of the OLD TOT LOT). They all are having a great time. Of course, all the moms and nannies are keeping a very close watch on how they climb the stairs and when they are in the top part with 2 big holes on both sides of the structure. We realize our kids are ok, but we started talking about how the younger kids have to be tough and either learn to play with gear meant for 5 yrs old at least or learn not to play at all in this playground or any other one.

So the comments and comparing and complaining about not having a TODDLER Playground when mom "B" tells me that the swing door is broken.  You can't close it or open it. Finally a Dad comes to the playground and opens it for us all the way so the kids can't get injured with it and parents don't have to deal with it. Too bad, the spaces of the fence are too wide that a Toddler foot can get stuck there, in between the broken swing door.

So we keep complaining, and pointing out how wrong was Hudson Related, RIOC and the "parent's only heard voice" on allowing having this structure to REPLACE the TOT LOT. REPLACE is the most important word. REPLACE!! Not Change, Similar, Exchange, Alter, Modify. We needed a replace, switch, substitution of a TODDLER structure for another.

What are those blue and grey things in the middle of the play area? We are trying to find meaning to them. Finally it comes to me: Baby slides! (WTF) Yeah! Supposedly, to those round things that have a curve the baby stands and then the baby "walks" or crawls the 3 tiny steps (all crooked to one side and then to the other. If you put a marble it will slide to one of the lateral sides. This "steps" are awful!) until getting to the top round grey thing and from there slide down to the other.... This silly things make no sense. And there's little E, 17 months old, figuring out on her own as any other child in the world. She is trying to climb the structure and she fell down backwards. Tears! Her 2 brothers trying the swings. They are so high that they can't even sit down on them, so what they do: they bend over the swings and started swinging themselves. Clever!

Our friend arrives and our daughters want to go to the swings now.... So my daughter has to use the "special needs" swing. It is hard to open it, finally she's sitting down but not very happy. She wants to use the regular toddler swing, but it is being used and THERE'S ONLY ONE for the whole RI. I closed the "lid" of the swing and surprise!!! Her eyes are barely seen. this thing is TOO big for her and it even is as reclined as the ones in Central Park. She is sitting pretty nice and tall and straight. Aren't this swings supposed to be a little inclined so the "lid" could be close and open easily with the child inside??

Then we get an email from a parent of a baby with a video and picture: the screws are falling down the awkward blue structures and one is completely out and laying in the ground. I walk fast to this 2 awkward things, get on my knees and peek underneath them. As much as my body allows me to do. I got it!! The long screw (at least 8 inches long) with the round thin washer. Just there ready for any kid to grab it. My friend B and another dad were also kneeling down and we saw 5 more screws hanging down but we were unable to retrieve them....
Not even 24hrs open to the public and the playground is falling down to pieces...

I can go on and on and on, and I am not criticizing I am being objective. My kid is happy, to some point, in this playground.

I just received a call from my friend B saying that the park was crowded again by "hyper older kids". So to avoid another injury to my toddler daughter, we're staying away of that playground this afternoon. I don't want another bruised cheek or something worst.

Oh! I forgot to mention, the "fence" put in is so easily climbed over. Our kids feet fit just perfect to climb over. Who was the genious to select that kind of (cheap and unsafe) fence? Who decided such cheap piece of equipment to be installed? Who decided that toddlers were Ok in not having any slide age appropiate for them? The same voices that are telling the rest of the residents: we don't want to hear from you?

That's all I have for now. Hope it works and RiOC you are responsible for any injury in this faulty, unsafe, bad assembled playground.
I spoke to several parents at the playground this afternoon which, at the time, was not very crowded. They loved the new playground and did not think that there would be much of a problem with older kids intimidating younger children. Their attitude was that the children have to learn to get along with each other.

UPDATE 9:45 PM - Earlier today I asked Hudson Related and RIOC to comment on the concerns of Roosevelt Island parents regarding the new Blackwell Park playground. Have not received any answer from RIOC, but Hudson Related's Sarah Willard replied:

· RIOC announced the opening and there were an unusual number of kids playing all at the same time. I will say that given the number of kids in a relatively small space, it was an amazingly positive event.

Items for repair:

· the latch (and the gate) on the handicap accessible gate to the swings was bent last week. It was picked up this morning and will have new reinforcements put in. Kids are hanging on the gate because it has a wide arc (for wheelchairs), so I asked the installer to stiffen the whole gate too assuming kids will hang on it. It will be reinstalled this week.

· The bolts in question we believe are two off of the gray base pad of the balancer (the small play equipment to help kids learn to balance). This does not affect safety or use but obviously will need to get replaced. The playground equipment installer, Cosetti, is coming tomorrow with bolts for all of the equipment and will a) replace the balancer missing bolts and b) confirm that all other equipment bolts are in and tight.

Age use:

· Our goal all along was to allow a full “arc of ages” (6 months to 8/9 years old) to play in the same playground so that 1) siblings could concurrently play and that 2) a toddler would not “age out” of the playground quickly. The next playground in Blackwell Park is nowhere within visual or physical proximity of this playground—a caregiver could not safely watch a 2- year-old and a 6-year-old playing in two separate playgrounds. Even on the large play apparatus, we dialed in play equipment for pre-toddler (at the ground level), toddlers and 2-5, including one of the two slides. I sent to the RI Parents Group the specs of the toddler and 2-5 play equipment and can do that again if parents would like the information.

· The tree perimeter defined how large the playground could be given that these were some of the most mature trees on the island to utilize their shade; we could not tear down trees to build the tot lot. Given the site constraints, we could only have one large play apparatus (for multiple ages) and a few smaller play devices, all with their prescribed fall zones.

· It is not unusual to have children of mixed ages playing in the same park. I see this all the time where elementary school kids and toddlers are in the same City Park—often they are siblings.

· RIOC and I are working on a donated used toddler toy program at the park (push toys, balls, play cars, etc) like they have at Bleecker Park in the Village. New toys unfortunately get stolen, but donated old toys are a community-building, it-takes-a-village way of kids learning how to share at an early age. These toys would be almost entirely for use by the toddlers (a 4 year old would not need a push toy to learn to walk).


OctagonParent said...

Susana has a point although it may be lost in hyperbole. We visited on Saturday and it was packed with older kids who are just being kids. They don't watch what they are doing but there is no malice in their actions.

It is hard to police your kid on the new structure when the park is packed. The place is not designed for the 2-5 year old set other than the balance boards. The climbing structure/ slides should have been age appropriate with the one it was replacing or they should have had two separate structures and divided the space. This is done very well both at the kids park on York and 60th Street and the one behind the Octagon.

The big loss for us was the loss of the basket swing. What was two on the island is now one. It was the primary reason we used the old park. Even then there was often a line of kids waiting to swing.

YetAnotherRIer said...

Oh, boy. I know this woman and it would have surprised me if she wrote something with a lot less hyperbole.

Just one thing: get a smaller purse for your personal items so they can be stored separately from the diaper bag and can be carried with you when you have to leave the stroller behind.