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Kids Injured Daily at Upper West Side Playground, Councilwoman Says

By Emily Frost | March 13, 2013 9:34am | Updated on March 13, 2013 4:37pm

UPPER WEST SIDE — Four concussions that required ER visits, four broken arms, a broken elbow, two broken legs, two head wounds that took stitches to close, plus bloodied faces and many chipped teeth are to be blamed on the playground at P.S. 166, parents and officials say.

Parents and elected officials are calling on the Parks Department to renovate the troubled playground before any more injuries happen, alleging that the poorly designed space is a hazard to children.

In particular, Upper West Side parents have expressed frustration over what they perceive as the Parks Department's slowness in fixing a curved brick surface within the playground. Children stumble over the cobblestone bricks, which often become loose and dislodged, and fall on their sharp edges, parents say.

Laurie Frey said her daughter suffered a concussion at the playground in November. Frey said she's witnessed several accidents since then. 

"I’m not happy to watch someone else's dazed, glassy-eyed child get carried off the playground with a head injury three months after I was making the same trip to the emergency room with my child for the very same reason," Frey said.

City Councilwoman Gale Brewer said she receives calls and emails from concerned parents daily and she has been keeping track of the twisted arms, knees, ankles and legs, bloodied faces and noses and chipped teeth since October 2011.

"Parents contact me daily with the description of the falls that their children experience because of the uneven surface in the yard," Brewer wrote in a Feb. 15 letter to Parks Department Borough Commissioner William Castro.

Officials with the Parks Department, however, said they did not have information regarding the number of injuries sustained on the playground.

And representatives of the Department of Education's Office of School Health said they had not seen an increase in injuries on the school premises, which includes the playground.

Michele Samarel's 10-year-old son is one of those who suffered an injury because of the surface. Her son was playing with a ball and tripped on the cobblestones and had to go to the emergency room, she said. 

"You see children constantly tripping and falling," she said. "It's very dangerous."

Renovations to the playground, which was last rebuilt in 2000, are on the Parks Department's docket, a spokeswoman said.

Brewer and Borough President Scott Stringer have each set aside $300,000 toward fixing the playground this fiscal year.

"If the Parks Department anticipates delays in the renovation process, the city must inform community residents, and explore interim safety measures to protect students and alleviate parent concern," Stringer said in a statement. 

"We are now completing a contract to renovate the playground. This will include smoothing out the two-level area with cobblestones,” the Parks spokeswoman said.