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De Blasio Promises Repairs to Decrepit and Dangerous Playgrounds

A NYCHA playground on Hunts Point Avenue in The Bronx had dangerously uneven concrete, July 19, 2021.
A NYCHA playground on Hunts Point Avenue in The Bronx had dangerously uneven concrete, July 19, 2021.
Christopher Alvarez/THE CITY

The city’s public housing authority will develop a comprehensive plan to overhaul its closed and rundown playgrounds after years of neglect, Mayor de Blasio vowed Monday.

His promise came a day after THE CITY reported that 89 New York City Housing Authority playgrounds — more than one out of 10 citywide — are cordoned off because of unsafe conditions.

“The bottom line is we need these playgrounds fixed,” de Blasio told reporters during his daily news conference.

The mayor noted that scheduled repairs and playground replacement projects were stalled by the authority’s COVID-19 spending moratorium.

“We had to wait. We had to freeze a huge number of projects,” he said.

The spending freeze has been lifted with the city emerging from the pandemic. But many of the play areas still have no public deadlines for completion of planned work, leaving thousands of kids without places to play in the summer and beyond.

Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams tweeted that after a year of lockdown “families need safe outdoor spaces to reclaim a sense of normalcy.”

“But in NYCHA complexes, delayed repairs & dilapidated playground equipment have made that all but impossible,” he added. “Our city must prioritize these repairs.”

‘Conditions Are Deplorable”

One state lawmaker was skeptical de Blasio’s ordered-up playground plan would make much of a difference.

Instead, the authority needs a completely revamped spending plan to address its many needs due to aging buildings that have not been properly kept up, said State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island, Brooklyn).

“It’s like when your window is broken and you buy new curtains. It’s not the solution,” she said.

“People are going to go back into buildings where the elevators don’t work and the lead paint is killing people,” Savino added. “The conditions are deplorable. That’s not the solution.”

Curtis Sliwa watches his Democratic rival in the mayor’s race, Eric Adams, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speak about gun violence at Brooklyn Borough Hall, July 19, 2021.
Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa watches his Democratic rival Eric Adams and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speak at Brooklyn Borough Hall, July 19, 2021.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

She is one of the supporters of a proposal in Albany to create a new public agency — the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust — designed to obtain more federal funding. The effort stalled last legislative session.

NYCHA has long failed to keep up and renovate its 710 playgrounds. Some are covered in layers of peeling paint while others are reinforced by pieces of wood. Many have been demolished or locked up and basically abandoned.

In June 2019, THE CITY revealed that NYCHA had failed to properly inspect its playgrounds for years. The authority last year created a unit composed of in-house maintenance workers trained by staff from the city’s Parks Department. They conducted playground inspections each month by going down a checklist of areas to review.

‘Kids Are Getting Hurt’

At the Mitchel Houses in the South Bronx, all that’s left of one playground is some poles and weeds. In another spot, NYCHA maintenance workers took away a bridge attached to some play equipment after it became unsafe, according to residents.

“Why would you paint this and not replace [the bridge]?” asked Marsha Williams, the vice president of the complex’s tenant association, who noted that the equipment was repainted about a month ago and is already chipping off.

“We want things for our kids here,” she said. “These things are broken. Kids are getting hurt.”

Rochel Leah Goldblatt, a NYCHA spokesperson, said the authority is “committed to ensuring all its recreational areas are safe” and is in the process of repairing and upgrading troubled spots.

NYCHA workers failed to replace a bridge on a jungle gym at the Mitchel Houses in The Bronx even after they repainted it about a month ago, tenant leaders said, July 19, 2021.
NYCHA workers failed to replace a bridge on a jungle gym at the Mitchel Houses in The Bronx even after they repainted it about a month ago, tenant leaders said, July 19, 2021.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

She added the weed-filled area was “still under evaluation” and declined to detail why it has taken so long for work to begin or offer an estimated completion date.

THE CITY showed some rundown playground equipment still in use to one expert who recommended that the structures be buried in the ocean.

“That’s stuff that goes out on a barge and gets dumped at sea to form a reef,” said Thom Thompson, a playground safety consultant based in Issaquah, Wash.

He noted that any playground built prior to 1991 does not meet industry standards based on federal safety guidelines and should be replaced.

Seeing Is Believing

On Monday, de Blasio would not say whether he supported scrapping all those old playgrounds.

“I need to get all the facts from NYCHA,” he said. “What I want is a plan that says, okay, here are the playgrounds that need work, here’s the timeline, here’s the resources, and how we’ll apply them.”

He vowed to have the plan in place before he leaves office “to address this issue once and for all.”

Renea Fields, 52, a Mitchel Houses resident, was skeptical.

“They say a lot of things,” she said. “I’m a true believer. When I see it I’ll believe it.”

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