Thursday, May 26, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #4: The Long Island College Hospital Playground

The forth stop on our playground tour is one of two playgrounds at Long Island College Hospital. Located on Henry street between Pacific and Amity, this cute little playground has been the subject of some controversy in the past. Unlike the majority of other Brooklyn playgrounds, these two are not owned/maintained by the city, but rather by the hospital itself. Apparently, the hospital created the park and playgrounds as part of a contractual obligation in order to get the park land under which a large parking garage now stands. So in 2008 when Cobble Hill residents began to notice some dangerous conditions due to lack of maintenance, there was quite an uproar from the community. Since they playgrounds are not maintained by the city, the issue couldn't be solved by a simple call to 311 (are those calls ever simple?) and the hospital didn't seem to be responding to attempts to contact them about the issue.The strange thing is... there seems to be virtually no information about what happened after all of this uproar and what kind of upkeep is going on now. (So if any of you have any insight about this, please let us know!) When we visited earlier this week, there were no particularly glaring signs of neglect, but then again I wasn't really looking for any either. I do remember the drainage issue (water pooling up and not properly draining after a storm) being a nuisance in years past, but this was not an issue this week and I don't recall it having been in the past year or so either.

All controversy aside, when we went on Tuesday, this is what we observed:

A brightly painted wooden playground that offers some cool and different equipment than the usual city-run playgrounds. The climbing structures and rather compact and not too high, double layered with shady space to play in beneath them. There are short, yet steep slides (which do tend to overheat in hot/sunny weather), ramps, bridges, flowered steering wheels, binoculars, ladders and more. There is also a spring rocking turtle that the children really enjoy (there was previously a second one as well but it has since been removed). One of the most popular attractions at this playground are the low set swings that most children can operate on their own. The seat of the swings is a regular "big kid" seat but the ropes they are attached to are only about two feet high and connect to a pole on either side that they pivot from... so there is not high overhead pole/structure like there is on most sets. The great thing about this is that most children are able to climb on unassisted and still reach the ground with their toes so that they can totally swing themselves - an awesome thing for both parent and child, as the child get the esteem-building satisfaction of this independence... and the adult doesn't have to stand there and push for 15 minutes! :)

There are shaded benches along the front perimeter, as well as a couple in the back and a row of ones in the middle of the playground (which are mostly unshaded). There are also a couple of pint-size picnic tables in the back as well. One thing that the playground definitely is lacking though is a restroom... as grimy as some park bathrooms can be, most of us really count on having one nearby when there are little ones in tow. So be sure everyone empty their bladders right before you get there and/or make sure you have your travel potty packed. I have never tried to use the restroom at the hospital but I suppose that might be possible... otherwise you'll need to cross over Atlantic to the little cafe Taza or head about a block and a half over to the Moxie Spot (but if you end up at Moxie, be prepared to stay - their kid-haven is never easy to turn any child away from).

I really do like this playground for something a little different when we are an the neighborhood, despite the possible concerns/politics that may be associated with it. So I'm going with a B+ this time - check it out and let us know what you think.

We are seeing a lot of sprinklers and fountains popping up in this weather (and probably some trips to the beach soon as well) so our sign this week is "water".

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #3: Fort Greene Playground

The third stop on our playground tour is the Fort Greene playground, located at the NW corner of Fort Green Park at Myrtle Ave and St Edwards Plaza. It's a large and unique playground surrounded by trees and of course the lovely Fort Greene park itself. It's a bit of a walk from the trains, but the Dekalb Ave B/D/N/Q/R is a little under half a mile and the Nevins 2/3/4/5 and Fulton St G are not too much further.

The larger part of the playground consists of one giant structure with two levels that really do resemble a "fort". There are steering wheels, ramps, swinging bridges, monkey bars, slides and various climbing structures to play on. The other side of the playground consists of baby swings and a much smaller scale fort structure for the little guys to play on.

Bordering both sides of the playground are stone pillars depicting the official animal of various states. Not only did I learn that New York's state animal is the Badger, but I also learned that I apparently managed to get through all of grade school without ever knowing my own home state of Georgia's official animal - the Right Whale. (I'm still a bit baffled by this one... personally I think North Carolina's Gray Squirrel would have been more fitting).

There are restrooms located between the two playground sides and there is plenty of shady bench seating along the perimeter as well as a few tables. There is also a sprinkler in the middle near the restrooms (although nature provided it's own showers for us on this particular visit). We have only been to this playground on a couple of other occasions so I can not say for certain, but it has never been over-crowded any time that we have been there.

The only things that might be lacking here are a sandbox and big kid swings, however, I don't think those are generally missed by the visitors here. I give Fort Greene playground an A, the "plus" lacking only because of slight inaccessibility.

Since we've had so much rain here this week (it is May and not April, right?) our featured sign this week is "Rain"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #2: Underhill Playground

The second stop on our tour is Underhill playground. Located in Prospect Heights on Underhill Avenue between Park Place and Prospect Place, Underhill playground is just a few blocks north of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. It's accessible from the 2/3 trains via the Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum stop or from the B/Q 7th Ave stop.

The most unique thing about this playground is that it has kind of evolved into the land of abandoned toys... old plastic push toys, a toy house, exersaucers, a spring horse, "big kid" bikes with training wheels... even some stuffed animals every now and then. All are old, many are broken - but the kids think they are the greatest and often even get into little tug-of-wars over them.

In addition to the toy assortment, Underhill playground has two main play areas (one for big kids and one for the little guys) that are separated by sprinklers (in the warmer weather) and a fairly big entrance path with an incline that makes it a lot of fun to ride the wheeled toys and bikes down. In the warmer months, this playground has a resident attendant who mostly hangs outside of the bathrooms (located in the rear of the playground) and blasts the Oldies station... which really gives the playground a fun vibe, especially in the summer with the sprinklers going. Down a few steps on either side of the bathrooms in the rear of the playground are two open cement areas where children often play with balls or ride bikes around. To the far right in the rear are some baby swings and to the far left is a little grassy area that can be nice to hang out in or picnic on sometimes.

During the bad storms we had last fall, the playground lost two of the large trees that previously provided most of the shade on the little kid's side of the playground, so that side is pretty bright now. However, there are still tree islands near the sprinklers and three or four of the benches around the perimeter still provide some shade.

Underhill playground could use some more shade, big kid swings and a sandbox... and it does tend to get pretty packed midday in the summer... but I still give it an A - The assortment of old toys combined with the oldies music definitely make it worth a trip or two this summer.

May is bike month in NYC and Underhill playground has an assortment of old bikes to experiment on, so our sign this week is "bicycle".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #1 : Lincoln Playground in Prospect Park

The first stop on our tour is Lincoln playground, located in Prospect Park off of Ocean Avenue at Lincoln Road. This playground is the perfect compliment to a trip to the zoo, carousel or the pedal boats. If you're coming from the southern zoo entrance and/or carousel, it's just a short walk over the hill on the pathway that leads past the public restrooms (across the road from the carousel). It is also convenient to the B/Q and Shuttle trains via the Prospect Park stop.

In addition to it's convenience to other park attractions, one of the things I like most about this playground is that it tends to not get overcrowded. It can fill up in the summer a bit more, but it's big enough that it doesn't tend to be too claustrophobic or chaotic. There are two large climbing areas (one for older children and one for the younger ones) which are separated by a sandbox, sprinklers (when the weather is warm enough) and tire swings. There are plenty of benches along the perimeter that offer both shady and sunny spots to sit in. The playground equipment itself also has areas of both of sun and shade, so you can opt for different spots depending on the weather. The sandbox, however, is in the middle of the playground and is unshaded, so if you're planning to hang there be sure to have your floppy hats and sunscreen. There is also a swing area that has baby swings, however, this playground does not have any "big kid" swings (although it does have two tire swings that are mostly in the shade). In addition the the usual climbing and sliding equipment, Lincoln playground also features "music switches" (I don't know the proper name for these) that let kids "ring" a bell/note by pressing a little thing that looks like a small light-switch, and angled parallel bars that allow children to "slide" down supported by their underarms (this works best with long sleeves so that the child can comfortably slide down without getting stuck or hurt from their skin sticking to the bars).

Overall, I give Lincoln Road playground an A+. There is little I would change about this playground, except perhaps to add some "big kid" swings.

This week is NYC wildflower week and around the entrance to Lincoln playground are some beautiful flowering trees. We also saw and smelled even more wonderful flowers during our walk through the park to get there, so, we thought that "flower" would be a fitting sign for this week.

 Flowering trees in Prospect Park