Fate Of ‘Dangerous’ NYC Playground Taken To Court In A Massive Case Of First World Problems

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boy at playgroundIf you need another story for the #firstworldproblems file, I’ve got just the one. Apparently two rival groups of parents are arguing over what is more important: the architecture of a park on the upper West Side of Manhattan or the fact that some kids have fallen down and gotten a few boo boos at said park.

The argument is over the future of Playground 89, a historic and distinctive play area designed by the architect M. Paul Friedberg. The area features a fun “adventure style” with a Belgian brick design and a shallow amphitheater. One group of parents is hoping that the NYC Park’s Department will level the play area to put an end to kids getting cuts and bruises from tripping over the uneven terrain.

If this was almost anywhere else, it would most likely be a minor disagreement taken care of in a series of overwrought community meetings. There would probably be a few helicopter parents with petitions or whatever, and that would be the end of it. But since this IS a “tony Manhattan neighborhood” the whole situation has been brought to court.

I’m not exactly jumping for joy about kids getting hurt at this playground. On one hand, the Parks Department toured the area back in January and were concerned enough to fast-track $600,000 for renovations. Though according to one area parent, Stephanie Crossman, there have been no studies done that prove more kids are being hurt at this park than any other. It seems to me that a lot more work needs to be done before anyone should be breaking ground.

In the most surprising turn of events, the architect himself seems to be the most pragmatic about the park. According to Friedberg:

“There needs to be studies and investigations that look for creative and responsible solutions instead of just taking the most mindless alternative: destruction. It’s become such a contentious issue that’s less and less about the playground and more a battle between two groups of parents.”

When the dude who built the place is calling for people to calm down, then you know there is a serious problem. Keep in mind that this hoopla is going on in the same city where many people are still homeless after Hurricane Sandy last October. Hopefully these people can get their priorities straight and find more productive things to argue about than a park that even the architect is pretty much “meh” over.

(Photo: sakkmesterke / Shutterstock)


  1. Rachel

    July 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I sort of get the impression that the most strident parents involved have actually boxed themselves into an ego-match by this point, and not the actual (barely an) issue…I can’t put my finger exactly onto anything you’ve written, but I am sort of picking up on a high level of narcissism involved in this debate (probably the people who want a whole portion of the park ruined for everyone, just so their get doesn’t get a bruise). To say nothing of the fact that (as you have already pointed out), the whole thing just turns on upper-class entitlement.

    And maybe this sounds sick, but I am actually a pro-boo-boo type of person. Minor cuts & bruises & some injuries seem to me to be proof that a kid isn’t afraid to let a little pain get in his/her way of a good time. I haven’t had a broken bone (and if I did, I WOULD probably be a little freaked out), but even those…happen. They’re life. They get set, and they heal.

    I feel that kids who gets bruises from, say, playing football/soccer/baseball with the neighborhood kids are still probably physically and socially healthier than they would be if their parents snowflaked them into risk-adverse people.

    • Véronique Houde

      July 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      plus, casts are totally kick-ass. You get your friends to draw all over them and get more pitty icecream. I totally loved breaking my arm 😉

    • Rachel

      July 9, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      I feel like I missed out.

    • Persistent Cat

      July 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      My little niece has a cast right now. It’s purple. Everything must be purple.

    • Emily

      July 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      On one trip to the pediatrician, our doctor said, “No bruises, big problem.”

    • Roberta

      July 9, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      I have yet to hear of someone who was traumatized because they got a bruise or bump when they were 8. Just something for all of us to remember.

    • Véronique Houde

      July 10, 2013 at 9:27 am

      well, unless they wanted to fake it so that they could get a bandaid with big bird on it… 😉 but once the bandaid is on, the problem just seems to magically disappear!!

    • Paul White

      July 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm

      I prtty much always had at least one or two bruises on me. Hell, still do.

  2. Jessie

    July 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Can we stop using the term first world problems? It implies that people in developing countries have no need or desire for something like a playground. I understand that the term is well meaning but it contributes to racism and the idea that America/the Western world knows best and is the center of all.

    • Véronique Houde

      July 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      First world problems just means that richer people from a richer country make such a huge deal of their problems that you would think that someone were starving. Basically you’re reacting the same way to a bump than someone from a third world country would react to a drought. It just puts things into perspective a little ;).

    • Tea

      July 9, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      How does it contribute to the idea of western world knowing best, when the entire point is that it’s making fun of how out of touch people can be with the rest of the world?

  3. Steve

    July 9, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    I have been intimately involved in the Playground 89 “issue” for the past eighteen months, and it’s clear that none of you have the slightest idea what you’re talking about. Your presumptuousness that it’s egos, narcissism, “tony-neighborhood” folks, people who care more about a park than about Sandy victims, etc. reflect nothing more than your own prejudices and lack of willingness to even ascertain the facts. Yes, it’s easy to sit in your basement or at your kitchen table and pontificate and scorn others, all of which reflects on you far more than the people about whom you are writing.

    You don’t even understand the reasons for the lawsuit (to stop the Parks Dept. from breaking ground as they planned, on July 8, without the community having any involvement in a flawed Community Board decision process AND in violation of NYC law regarding the required City Design Commission review. Once the Parks Dept. backed off and agreed to follow the legally required process and also give the community four weeks’ notice before any construction work would begin, the lawsuit was voluntarily withdrawn.

    You probably don’t even know that Arlene Simon, the head of the Landmark West! historical preservation organization, has been a vocal opponent of bulldozing the park. You probably also don’t know that Mr. Friedberg (an internationally renowned landscape architect) has volunteered his and/or his firm’s time to review the design issues — if any — and look for less drastic ways to resolve them, and that his offer has been completely ignored by a Community Board that has zero expertise in playground design. I guess it’s just a lot easier to sit back in your air-conditioned kitchen and sneer and snark at others who are trying to preserve children’s safety AND the character of their neighborhood. As you probably don’t live in the neighborhood in question, you also aren’t aware of the additional issues of rat infestation and drug peddling, both of which have plagued the park in recent years and will likely be exacerbated by the proposed leveling of the park’s play area.

    If the Internet has proven anything in recent years, is that way too many people are far too easily able to spew their completely uninformed opinions while feeling superior to those they write about. How sad, how uncivil, how disgusting. Leave a message…

    • Chad

      July 10, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      How about just not going to the park? The crime issue would bother me a lot, however.

      I think you are over reacting with the name calling, by the way.

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