WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Parks Department will go back to the drawing board after receiving negative feedback on an in-progress renovation of a popular park's basketball courts.
The department agreed to review and revise its plan for the Orville and Wilbur Playground at St. Nicholas Avenue and West 156th Street after residents voiced concern that the planned playground would encroach on the basketball courts.
Steve Simon, Parks and Recreation Manhattan Chief of Staff, said it is unclear what the department's architect will ultimately decide, but he assured residents that the two current basketball courts will remain in their current configuration and lines for a third NCAA regulation-sized tournament court will also be painted.
This promise satisfied residents, prompting them to cancel a protest they had planned on Oct. 3.
The $2.3 million revamp, which will see court and playground renovations as well as add accessibility to the bathrooms, had gotten flak from neighborhood activists, who claimed that that the construction plans, approved by Community Board 12 s in 2010, were a bait and switch.
Although playground users said they were initially OK with the 2010 schematics, they were not pleased with the final schematics that that department began implementing in late August, said community leader Damon Sebastian.
"We didn't see the actual diagrams in 2010," Sebastian said. "All we saw was a graph."
Sebastian said he and friends were surprised to see that basketball courts had been shortened, lines redrawn, and backboards moved in a way that would cause unsafe congestion, when they first visited the playground.
"How can we have more games?" he asked, referring to space difficulties imposed by the new sizing and court congestion. "You're going to make people fight for usage of the court."
Also slated to be added alongside the courts were a map of the United States and play areas for children painted on the concrete, which Sebastian and others worried would be located in dangerously close proximity of basketball games.
Simon said that plans for the map and painted play area have since been scrapped after Parks officials and community leaders went on a walk-through of the site Sept. 10 and community members expressed further worry at CB12's full board last week.
"We quickly tried to respond to their concerns," Simon said.