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$3M Central Park Playground Rehab Should Include Bathrooms, Locals Say

 Upper East Siders, while excited about planned changes to playgrounds in Central Park, worried that bathrooms might be too far away for kids.
Central Park Playground Revamp
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MANHATTAN — A beloved Central Park playground will soon get a much-needed facelift — but some worry that the $3 million overhaul doesn't include new bathrooms, leaving parents and kids to continue their trek across the park to find a place to relieve themselves.

At Community Board 8's parks committee meeting, officials from the Central Park Conservancy gave more details on their plan to revamp the Wild West playground at Central Park West and 93rd Street — but confirmed that it doesn't include new bathrooms, according to Lane Addonizzio, a Conservancy planner and researcher.

"Adding buildings in the landmarked park is an issue," she said.

The closest restrooms are located near the tennis courts near West 94-96th Streets and West Drive, which some parents estimate can take as long as 15 minutes to get to from the playground, which amounts to a 30-minute round-trip jaunt — an eternity for a small child.

"When you're with children and grandchildren, they always have to go to the bathroom," CB8 Member Rita Popper said.

As the likelihood of new bathrooms diminished, some residents lightheartedly brainstormed creative ways of addressing kids' sanitary needs.

CB8 Member Elizabeth Ashby — who has long fought for the rights of Upper East Side dog owners — wondered whether picking up after pooches might provide insight.

"I just wonder if there's something like a doggie bag for these children," Ashby said, smiling.

Popper considered this proposal.

"Bushes are good for boys," she said.

Under the Central Play program, which plans to revamp all of the greenspace's 21 playgrounds with private funds, Conservancy officials plan to make playgrounds more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Sand surfaces will be replaced with sand-colored carpeting, which is more wheelchair-friendly.

And multi-occupancy swings will likely be added, meaning there will be additional play equipment that's wheelchair accessible.

The overhaul, which includes a near-complete replacement of play equipment, is expected to begin in September and take nine months, officials said.

The Conservancy also plans on doing more to make the playground blend better with the iconic park, Addonizzio said.

One way, she said, is to make the edge of the playground more wave-like.

"It could undulate more," she said.

This softened edge could blur the line between play and park space, she said.

"You should feel like you're playing in Central Park," she said, adding that users shouldn't have the sensation of being in "a schoolyard or anywhere else in the city."

Addonizzio also assured residents that despite the changes, the playground would retain much of its original character.

"The plan is not blank slate," she said. "There's interesting things about this playground that people relate to."