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Morningside Heights Playground Reopens Just in Time for the Heat Wave

By Nikki Lohr | July 16, 2013 10:18am
 After a year of renovations, Playground 123 reopened Saturday to the delight of parents and kids in Morningside Heights.
Playground 123 Reopens
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MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — The newly renovated Playground 123 opened over the weekend with icy-cold sprinklers, just in time for this week's heat wave.

The playground, in Morningside Park at 123rd Street near Morningside Avenue, was rundown and had little more than asphalt pavement and chain-link fences when construction began in August 2012.

After $3.7 million in renovations, the playground reopened on Saturday with new swing sets, including adaptive swings for disabled children, as well as castle-like play equipment, a basketball court, a playhouse and sprinklers. The park also has new shrubs, perennial plants and 32 additional trees.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this playground,” said Nejma Banks, a mother of four who looked on as her children frolicked in the water on Monday.

Friends of Morningside Park, a volunteer group devoted to park preservation, had pushed for a renovation of the northern part of Morningside Park from West 121st to West 123rd streets for 11 years before plans were discussed at a Community Board 9 meeting in February 2011.

“Our goals were to provide a greener, more sustainable playground that is visually appealing [and] provides more play value for all ages and abilities,” said Phil Abramson, a Parks Department spokesman.

Funding for the renovations came from the City Council, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Abramson said.

Judy Scott, who has a 2-year old daughter, said she liked the new design’s separation between the upper-level with equipment geared toward younger kids and the lower-level features aimed more toward older children.

“I like that it’s conducive to both small and big kids,” Scott said. “I hope the community will come together to take good care of the playground.”

Teague, 4, Banks' son, said he couldn't decide what his favorite feature was, listing the new climbing wall, monkey bars and new slides, which enabled him to “slide faster,” he said.

Marianne Soohoo, who has brought her three kids to Playground 123 every day since its opening, was blown away by the changes.

“The kids didn’t know what to do first when we came here,” she said. “There were so many options.”

Brad Taylor, president of Friends of Morningside Park, said updates to the playground area are not finished. The Parks Department is still collecting money to update the water feature and handball court next to the playground, he said.

But for now, Soohoo and other parents said they were happy that the playground had reopened in time for the height of the season.

“It would have been a long summer otherwise," she said.