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West Thames Park to Close for Repairs Three Months After Opening

By Julie Shapiro | September 14, 2010 1:53pm

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

BATTERY PARK CITY — The controversial tire swing isn’t the only problem at West Thames Park.

Just three months after the $9.4 million park opened, the water play area does not drain properly, the springy safety surface is cracked and the grass field has turned into a mud pit.

"We haven’t wanted to close it, because it’s so popular and well used," said Lisa Weiss, urban design director for the State Department of Transportation, which built the park.

But as the problems added up, the state realized it made sense to close the lawn and playground and fix everything at once. The two-week closure will likely happen later this month or early next month.

The state declined to say how much the repairs would cost. The original $9.4 million came from the Federal Transit Administration’s 9/11 recovery fund.

During the closure, the state will likely reinstall the tire swing that injured several children earlier this summer, said Adam Levine, State DOT spokesman. Community Board 1 gave the tire swing the green light at a meeting last week.

Of the many issues at West Thames Park, parents said one of the biggest disappointments was the lawn, which turned into a mud puddle a few weeks after it opened.

Weiss said the irrigation system was left on too long one night, which compacted the sod and caused poor drainage. The state is still figuring out how to repair the lawn, she said.

"Whatever it takes," said Matt Schneider, a Battery Park City resident who was playing with his two young sons in the park last week. "It’s not very useful with a big lake in the middle."

Drainage has also been a problem in the playground, where the fountains sometimes create a pool of standing water several inches deep. When toddlers wade in with diapers, the water becomes unsanitary, parents said.

The state is working on a permanent solution to that problem as well, Weiss said.

Vanessa Keeping, 37, who brings her 4 and 7-year-old sons to the park almost every day, said she was sorry to hear the playground had to close.

"If it’s a safety issue, I’d rather that it’s closed and fixed," she said. "But it’s going to be rough for us. The kids are so used to coming now."

Reinstalling of the tire swing may be the most noticeable change to the park when it reopens.

The state removed the swing at the community’s request in July, after at least two children smacked their head on the wooden crossbeam while riding it.

Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee gave the state permission to put the swing back up at a meeting last week after learning that identical swings were already up all over the city with no complaints.

The community board had asked the state to add padding around the crossbeam and put up a sign explaining the potential danger, but the state decided not to do so, Weiss said last week. Changing anything about the swing could void the manufacturer’s warranty and open the state to liability, she said.

Even without the proposed safety measures, the Battery Park City Committee supported reinstalling the swing.

"Kids could get hurt on any apparatus in the park," said Anthony Notaro, a CB1 member.

Jeff Galloway, another member, added that unless Battery Park City residents are "pansies," they should be willing to take the marginal risk of injury.

"I don’t think we want to raise our kids in a padded cell," he said.