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".


  1. Sometimes I think those Underhill playground toys would be good material for a movie. Something like Toy Story 4 : When you are not in the attic.

  2. I must return to experience Underhill in a more in-season moment than my last visit; otherwise (ie: when seen in winter) the "Land of Abandoned Toys" really does apply. Here's my post about this playground under snow/slush:
    I'm interested to have a conversation about the definition of "loose parts" in the context of this particular playground: what constitutes a loose part? When can old, beat up plastic or even (the horror) soggy plush toys qualify as healthy tools to play with? Anytime, just because they're there? Especially in our urban playgrounds, because these toys are simply more malleable than the ubiquitous locked-down finite structures that otherwise constitute the core of the playground? Because at least they don't come with strings attached like the toys towed by some children to the playground and "borrowed" by other children (often to the owners' and their mommies' chagrin)? And yes, Inna, I agree: this stuff is fodder for a film, though I'm not sure if it would be a nostalgic one or just downright creepy.