Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the reopening of a playground at a Bronx public housing development as a “labor of love” Tuesday while promising overhauls for nearly 90 other kids’ spaces closed for years due to disrepair.
But his plan was short on details — and even shorter on money.
“As many as possible will be reopened before the summer is out,” de Blasio told those gathered at the revamped Edenwald Houses playground.
He noted the city added over $7 million to cover repairs at long-shuttered playgrounds.
That’s not nearly enough: NYCHA’s 20-year Physical Needs Assessment for all its playgrounds, released four years ago, estimates it will cost $63 million to tackle the necessary fixes throughout the system.
The mayor’s Bronx ribbon-cutting came a week after THE CITY revealed that more one out of 10 New York City Housing Authority playgrounds are closed to the public due to unsafe conditions.
NYCHA has long struggled to maintain and modernize its 710 playgrounds. Some are decades old, covered in layers of peeling paint and kept functioning by makeshift repairs, while others have been demolished or cordoned off and virtually abandoned.
Behind the scenes, de Blasio has scrambled to address the issue before he leaves office at the end of the year, according to a City Hall source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“This is exactly what he does: Everything is for show,” the source said.
A City Hall spokesperson did not respond to an email seeking comment.
‘Positive Place for Kids’
Walter McNeill, tenant association president of the Edenwald Houses for 20 years, hailed the fixed-up playground but said he wished the job had been completed when his children were young.
“Everything you see here today wasn’t here,” said the father of six, who has 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. “My kids only had the basketball court, and they weren’t tall enough to put the ball through the netless hoop. They would play with whatever they had. It’s a big improvement.”
Another resident noted that most of the work on the playground had been completed months ago.
“It ain’t new. There shouldn’t have been a ribbon-cutting,” said the tenant, who has lived in the complex for more than two decades and didn’t want her name used for fear of upsetting management. “Kids were playing here last year.”
The playground has an updated slide, sprinkler and cushion on the pavement to soften falls.
“Look at how beautifully this playground has been kept up by everyone that works here,” de Blasio told those gathered for the ceremony. “That’s a labor of love. You can see it. And this is a positive place for kids to be. We want every one of these playgrounds to be positive and beautiful for our children.”
The announcement was part of the de Blasio administration’s “Bronx Week,” during which City Hall focuses on public programs and investment in the borough.
Other Bronx NYCHA tenants, meanwhile, were still waiting on playground reopenings, records show.
A play space at the Hunts Point Avenue Rehab development was razed so long ago that some tenants didn’t even realize it was once an area for children. And all that’s left of the playground at the nearby Mitchel Houses in the South Bronx is some poles and weeds.
A day after THE CITY highlighted those locations — and other rundown spots with equipment one playground expert said should be buried at sea — de Blasio vowed NYCHA would develop a comprehensive plan to get kids playing safely.
But he hasn’t released a plan yet, and many of the spots in need of repairs still have no completion dates or estimated costs.
‘More Than Playgrounds’
Some remain skeptical de Blasio will be able to do much before he leaves office Dec. 31.
“Does he have enough time? I really don’t know,” said Danny Barber, chairperson of Citywide Council of Presidents, NYCHA’s tenant leadership panel.
“It’s nice that he wants to fix problems, but there are other more pressing things like lead, mold, elevator issues and high crime,” he added, urging the mayor to expand the hours of NYCHA community centers to “give young people something to do.”
“We have to invest back into our youth and our communities,” Barber said. “It’s more than playgrounds.”
A proposal in Albany to create a new public agency — the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust — designed to obtain more federal funding stalled last legislative session.
Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams noted the years of neglect at NYCHA and tweeted that “our city must prioritize these repairs.”