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Battle Over Playground Nears End as New Design Gets Greenlight

By Emily Frost | June 20, 2014 2:07pm | Updated on June 23, 2014 8:43am
 The latest designs were approved by two committees on Thursday night. 
Playground 89 Designs Approved by CB7
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A yearlong battle between parents and residents over the fate of a local playground has reached a tentative resolution, after the community board greenlit a design the Parks Department called a "compromise" between both sides.

The latest Parks Department design for the public Playground 89 at P.S. 166 removes a step from the existing amphitheater, instead of leveling all the sloped features, in a bid to make it handicap accessible. An earlier plan approved by Community Board 7 last summer sought to level the ampitheater entirely. 

The new plan also includes the removal of railings and ramps that were part of an earlier design because parents feared they'd create tripping hazards and eat up play space.

"This is a compromise," said Nancy Prince, deputy chief of design for the Parks Department, told Community Board 7's Parks and Environment and Youth, Education and Libraries committees on Thursday night. The renovations, which are also intended to improve safety, are estimated to cost $600,000 — and will be funded through money set aside by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

The new plan, which has the blessing of P.S. 166 principal Debra Mastriano, was approved by the CB7 committee and will now go before the full board — followed by the Public Design Commission, which has the final say.

However, the design did not win support from critics in the Friends of Playground 89 group, which was formed last summer in a bid to preserve the existing structure. 

"These proposed changes discriminate against children who play outside the amphitheater bowl," said FOP 89 representative John Crossman, arguing that even the redesign contains too many changes.

The group opposes the removal of a step from the amphitheater and the flattening of the eastern end of the playground, which Parks said are necessary to make the playground ADA-compliant.

FOP 89's John Crossman said his group had also devoted "hundreds, if not thousands, of hours thinking about this [playground] collectively."

Members of the board and the Parks Department expressed surprise that FOP 89 continued its opposition, citing meetings at the group's recommendation with the original architect M. Paul Friedberg to try to preserve more of his design. 

"Change is hard," concluded parent Stephanie Goldblatt. 

CB7 will post the plans on its site soon, it said.