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Cracked UWS Basketball Courts and Playground to Get $1.55M Renovation

By Emily Frost | December 16, 2014 3:37pm
 The playground hasn't been renovated since 1982, the Parks Department said. 
Bennerson Playground Renovations
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A playground that hosts basketball tournaments on cracked courts filled with puddles is getting a $1.55 million makeover — complete with resurfaced courts, new exercise equipment and improved lighting and benches, among other additions, the Parks Department announced. 

Samuel N. Bennerson Playground — which runs between West End and Amsterdam avenues between West 63rd and 64th streets — has a junior and full-size court, as well as sections featuring children's play equipment.

But it hasn't gotten a full reconstruction since 1982, so it's in dire need of a facelift, residents said.  

Under the plan, the warped basketball courts will get resurfaced, said Tristan Porto, the Parks Department landscape architect leading the renovation, at meeting Monday.

New three-row metal bleachers will provide seating for players and fans on the larger court, and a new digital scoreboard will also be added, Porto explained. Steps surrounding the court that were too shallow to sit on and didn't serve any purpose will be removed, he added. 

Both courts will also get new polycarbonate backboards, improved lighting with LED bulbs and more wooden benches surrounding them, he added.

Handrails will also be added to the four ramps leading onto the main court to make them even more accessible, Porto said. 

The plan also includes a reorientation of the smaller court's hoops to create more open space and make room for four new swings, he noted.

Another goal of the renovation is to make entrances to the park "more welcoming," Porto said. To achieve this effect, the agency plans to remove extraneous chain link fences around the perimeter and replace them with wild grasses and plants. The northeast entrance will be removed altogether, with the playground's three remaining entryways getting new gates topped with orange acrylic globes meant to echo the park's emphasis on basketball. 

At the northeast corner, the Parks Department will add four pieces of adult exercise equipment, as requested by local residents, but details of their designs were not available. 

To cut down on puddles and drainage issues, the agency will add permeable pavement on all the playground's pathways. Additionally, a 3-foot-high fence along the sides of the pathways will help separate the adult and child play areas. 

Nearby residents and Community Board 7 members offered glowing reviews of the plan, which was previewed at a board meeting Monday night.

But with large groups of parents and children gathering to watch basketball tournaments, locals worried about the lack of restrooms in the plan.

"The plan is good. I know the people will like it too. Everything looks good, except for that one thing," said Amsterdam Addition Tenants Association President Patricia Ryan, of the exclusion of toilets in the renovation.

Parks Department staffers said adding a bathroom was too expensive and would also require removing playground features to make space.

The agency is also planning a second, $1.3 million phase that would update play equipment and reconstruct the spray shower, but it isn't yet funded. If the money comes through in time, the two phases could be completed back to back, saving the agency about $80,000 in construction costs, said Steve SimonManhattan chief of staff for the Parks Department.

The work in phase one, sponsored by former Upper West Side City Councilwoman Gale Brewer and current Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, is set to begin in March 2016 and last a year.