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Parents Push for NoLita Playground Renovation

Parents point out that the play equipment in DeSalvio Playground is aging and dirty.
Parents point out that the play equipment in DeSalvio Playground is aging and dirty.
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Facebook/Friends of DeSalvio Playground

MANHATTAN — NoLita mom Kristi Avram takes her preschool-age twins to DeSalvio Playground on Spring Street multiple times a week — but she says she sometimes worries about bringing them to the park because of its run-down jungle gyms and litter-strewn ground.

"The playground now is neglected, littered and fairly dirty," said Avram, 40, who founded the advocacy group Friends of DeSalvio Playground in hopes of cleaning up the space on the southeast corner of Spring and Mulberry streets, near where NoLita, Little Italy and SoHo meet.

Friends of DeSalvio Playground and other community groups are hosting a kids activity day Saturday to seek local input on how to improve the park.

Downtown parenting nonprofit Bowery Babes began pushing for renovations to the quarter-acre playground when the group was founded in 2006, said Avram, who is also a member of that group. 

"We consider the park to be our backyard and we want it to be a nice place for our children," she said. "Personally, I would like to see it completely redone, with new pavement, a new playground and a cleaner, safer place for kids to play." 

Bowery Babes, Friends of DeSalvio Playground, the Partnership for Parks and the Citizens Committee of NYC will poll their neighbors in the park from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. 

"We want to get people's input on what they want in the playground so we can pass people's concerns on to the city," Avram said. 

To make the afternoon fun for kids, Tone Academy of Music and the children's music group Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals will play music, McNally Jackson Books will offer story time and the Children's Museum of the Arts will lead art activities, a flier for the event says. 

Local restaurants will donate pizza, cupcakes and frozen yogurt, according to Friends of DeSalvio Playground's Facebook page. 

As community groups talk with neighbors to envision a new playground, they're working with elected officials and the city Parks Department to fund the project, which the Parks Department estimates will cost $1.3 million. 

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin dedicated $550,000 of her fiscal year 2012 discretionary funds to renovations of the playground and is scheduled to visit the park at 2 p.m. Saturday, a spokeswoman said. 

"DeSalvio Playground needs some sprucing up," Chin said in a statement. "I am confident that with the help of the surrounding community, this park will flourish into a beloved gathering place in the heart of Little Italy.”

The Parks Department is talking with Chin and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer about funding for the playground, a spokesman said. 

Once the project is fully funded, the department with work with locals and Community Board 2 on its design, the spokesman added. 

In the meantime, Bowery Babes has contracted with the homeless services nonprofit ACE to supplement city trash pickup by cleaning up garbage there once a week. 

Giving the park a makeover would prompt people to take better care of it, Avram said. 

"Rundown space tends to be treated differently that spaces that are new and fresh," she said.