Prestigious Architect Sued for 'Defective' Staten Island Playground

By Nicholas Rizzi on January 15, 2014 8:24am 

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 The city sued the designers for the playground at the Jerome Parker Educational Complex in Staten Island.
City Sues Prestigious Architect Firm Over 'Defective' Playground in Staten Island
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NEW SPRINGVILLE — This prestigious architectural firm might have designed a presidential library, but the city claims its attempt at creating a Staten island playground was a shambles.

The city's School Construction Authority sued Ennead Architects, formerly known as the Polshek Partnership, last week for its "defective design" of an outdoor courtyard and basketball court at the Jerome Parker Educational Complex, which houses several public schools in New Springville.

According to court documents, the Chelsea-based firm — responsible for designing President Bill Clinton's presidential library in Arkansas and the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center for Earth and Space — designed a playground that cracked almost immediately after it was completed.

"As a result of Ennead's defective design, the pavement in the playground has become cracked, buckled and uneven, presenting a safety hazard to children, teachers, other staff and visitors," the suit states.

Because of the poor design, the SCA said the pavement would need to be completely removed and will cost nearly $1.4 million to replace, according to court documents.

A representative from Ennead did not respond to requests for comment. The city's Law Department and the Department of Education said they would not comment on ongoing litigation.

According to the suit, the SCA said the design was flawed because Ennead didn't consider the site's susceptibility to "frost-heaving" — when the soil moves upwards because of moisture in freezing conditions.

The design also did not account for the concrete and asphalt mixing with the soil and did not meet the SCA's minimum requirements for asphalt depth, court documents said.

"The result was a defective playground that began to deteriorate almost immediately upon completion of construction, has continued to deteriorate to this day, and will continue to deteriorate unless it is removed and replaced," the lawsuit states.

Ennead began work on the educational center in 2000 and completed the playground in the summer of 2008.

Some of the work was performed by subcontractors hired by Ennead, but the architectural firm remains responsible under the terms of the contract, court documents show.

The SCA said the site's proximity to a wetland gives it a higher groundwater level and its soil has poor drainage which makes it more susceptible to "frost-heaving."

Because of the mix of materials and the uneven depth at the playground, the "pavement has progressively cracked, buckled, become uneven and created pools of standing water, all presenting a safety hazard," court documents said.

The city sued Ennead for damages not less than the estimated $1.4 million needed to replace the pavement in the playground.

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