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Thread: Burling Slip - Renovation - Playground

  1. #1
    The Dude Abides
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    NYC - Financial District

    Default Burling Slip - Renovation - Playground

    A 'Reinvented' Playground for Seaport

    By Andrea Appleton
    POSTED DEC. 29, 2007

    Many city playgrounds tend to be pretty standard issue. The colors are primary, the equipment predictable, and the layout more or less generic. For parents, proximity usually trumps innovation when it comes to places for their kids to play.

    A new playground proposed for Burling Slip in the South Street Seaport is anything but that. The design, a pro bono project of David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group, is a significant departure from the usual model.

    Meant to evoke a ship, the playground will feature sand and water, as well as a full-time cadre of “play workers,” there to foment fun and ensure safety.

    “We want to reinvent the playground,” said project consultant Barry Richards.

    Last month Richards presented the project to Community Board 1’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee, with Lawrence Mauro, the project manager for the city’s Parks Department. The full board later unanimously passed a resolution approving the design.

    If all goes according to plan, a cobblestone-paved plaza will replace what is currently a parking lot. A multi-level “boat,” with a wooden deck will be in the center. An amphitheater, a crow’s nest, a sandpit, and a small waterway are some of the fixed elements on board, and “loose parts,” such as carts, balls, and buckets also will be available.

    Historical elements are fundamental to the design, according to Richards.

    “There are all these local textures we’ve tried to incorporate,” he said. “The wood on the piers, ropes, burlap bags, water.”Until it was paved over in 1835, the site was a boat slip.

    “Play workers” are also central to the plan. Their chief duty would be to organize and supervise play. During the warmer months, as many as four might be on duty at once.

    It’s one of the most unusual playground projects the city has taken on, according to Mauro.

    “We’re breaking the mold here,” he said. “This breaks all our normal rules.”

    The city would provide routine maintenance, but the playground’s unusual features will require additional funding. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation gave $2 million to the project, and a not-for-profit organization has been set up to raise additional funds.

    While the design has met with local approval, the real hurdle will be the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Burling Slip is part of the South Street Seaport Historic District, and as such, the commission can veto any design it deems historically inappropriate. A hearing will take place on Jan. 9.

    Even if the commission approves, local kids won’t be sailing the Slip’s high seas anytime soon. Construction is slated to begin this fall, and will take nearly a year to complete.

    Copyright 2007 The Tribeca Trib.
    Last edited by pianoman11686; January 4th, 2007 at 09:57 PM.

  2. #2
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    New York Tries to Think Outside the Sandbox

    Kinnaresh Mistry and the Rockwell Group
    A parking lot at John Street near South Street Seaport would be turned into a playground
    where children could play with foam blocks, cardboard tubes and burlap bags.
    It would also have pulleys and climbing nets.
    January 10, 2007

    New York City, with its rich history of public playgrounds, is on the verge of a bold experiment in the way children play, one that could accelerate the trend away from monkey bars, swings and seesaws used by generations of city children.

    In an unusual public-private partnership, the city is developing a playground near the South Street Seaport that will have trained “play workers” on hand to help children interact with features of the new playground: water, ramps, sand and specially designed objects meant to spur the imagination.

    The concept is not just another accouterment for Manhattan’s pampered toddler set. Rather, city officials say, it reflects the latest thinking about child-rearing. They hope the new playground concept will be replicated across the five boroughs and that it will serve as an inspiration for other cities.

    “This is a very exciting idea in its physical presentation and its potential to change the way we think of playgrounds,” said the city’s parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, adding that it could “once again put New York City on the cutting edge of playground design and development.”

    Based on child-development theories that children need to engage in social and fantasy play rather than just build physical skills, the project was conceived and is being designed at no charge by David Rockwell, famous for creating adult play spaces like he restaurants Nobu and Café Gray and the Mohegan Sun casino and resort.

    Although the space is to be open to the public, the play workers, a concept already popular in Europe, are being financed by Mr. Rockwell, who is raising $2 million privately to cover the costs.

    The American playground of swing sets and steel monkey bars has already been evolving with more imaginative features in recent years. But behaviorists and others say planners could go even further to reflect more refined ideas about nurturing children, especially those younger than 12.

    “Very little time is spent by kids in playgrounds if they have a choice,” said Roger Hart, who has been consulting with the Rockwell Group and the city in developing the playground. He is also a director of the Children’s Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “They limit the repertoire of play to children’s physical activity,” instead of encouraging the kind of social, sensory, interactive and individual fantasy play that children need, Mr. Hart said.

    Once upon a time, parents took their children to city playgrounds to push them endlessly in swings or watch them hang from monkey bars (since removed; too dangerous) or let them struggle with the rudiments of sharing shovels in a sandbox. And both parent and child felt they were doing pretty well.

    The new playground, however, aims to do better: Developers of the Lower Manhattan project envision groups of children collaborating, for instance, loading containers with sand, hoisting them up with pulleys and then lowering them down to wagons waiting to be wheeled off to another part of the park.

    What may sound like a training ground for tiny construction workers actually holds huge developmental benefits, backers say. “You have a level of interaction that you would never have with fixed parts,” Mr. Hart said.

    The project would transform a parking lot at Burling Slip in the South Street Seaport Historic District, an area that has few playgrounds and is increasingly attractive to residents with children. The plan has already won the support of city and state elected officials and community leaders.

    Although it still needs approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, that appears likely to be granted, paving the way for completion sometime next year. At a hearing yesterday, several commissioners spoke in its favor, and the chairman, Robert B. Tierney, said he thought there was a “broad consensus for approval.”

    The idea has the support of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Parks officials are devising plans to supply those who already work in other playgrounds with the loose objects, which range from foam blocks and cardboard tubes to spindles and burlap bags, and train them to encourage children to play with them. And in a classic Bloombergian touch, the city hopes that if the idea catches on elsewhere, it could market the playground products.

    Mr. Rockwell, the designer, acknowledged that there were plenty of great play spaces in the city, and he and his team designed their playground as a complement to those that already exist. Still, he said, watching his children, 4 and 7, play inspired him to create something based more on the imagination.

    “Play is not optional for kids; play is how children learn to build community, how they learn to work with other people, it’s how they learn to kind of engage their sense of creativity,” Mr. Rockwell said. “We thought it was a really open field to explore.”

    Mr. Rockwell has already developed a relationship with the city, helping to design a viewing platform over ground zero, a project for which he also helped raise private financing. After another partnership to develop theatrical spaces downtown fell through, Mr. Rockwell, who lives in Lower Manhattan, realized there was an immediate need for a playground.

    Commissioner Benepe, it turned out, was an advocate for rethinking the city’s playgrounds, and there was money available from both the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Economic Development Corporation as part of larger efforts to redevelop the area.

    Whether the playground experiment proves successful, and can be replicated, is an open question, educators and parents say.

    Cathleen Wiggins, director of the Leadership in the Arts program at the Bank Street College of Education and the mother of a 6-year-old, was receptive to the open-ended play materials but worried that the city could wind up with something that could not be maintained because of budget constraints. And she said that traditional playgrounds had their selling points, adding that children “are creative and imaginative beings and given just about any material they are going to bring to it their notions of the world and their growing understanding of it.”

    The modern American playground has its roots in the late 19th century, when settlement houses in New York worked to create spaces for children to play, Mr. Benepe said.

    According to Susan G. Solomon, who wrote the book “American Playgrounds,” which traces their evolution, playground design in the 1950s and ’60s was borrowed from post-war Europe with the concept of the adventure playground. That idea was based on the fact that children most enjoyed building their own playthings and manipulating their own environment.

    But, Ms. Solomon, who is also consulting on the new playground, said that in the ’70s, concerns over injury and liability took over, and high-ticket architects largely abandoned playground design.

    Now, Ms. Solomon said, the United States has fallen far behind Europe and Japan. In Great Britain, for instance, play is a government priority, with organizations dedicated to research, training and oversight of play workers and the development of play programs.

    What the Rockwell Group has proposed for Lower Manhattan is a figure-eight-shape landscape, with sloping wooden ramps for running that connect a zone of sand to a zone of water. A structure would house the loose parts, including foam blocks, small boats and collections of tubing, elbows and gaskets for construction projects, all to be maintained and overseen by the play workers.

    The design also calls for a system of pulleys and ropes for children to lift and transport objects, as well as a climbing net and shading sails that relate to the area’s maritime history and setting.

    “We’re creating as many opportunities as we can for collaborative play — thinking of imagination as important a muscle as running,” Mr. Rockwell said, as well as places that children can be in and manipulate as they wish, with the loose objects encouraging them “to understand that they can control their own environment.”

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  3. #3


    Sure is ugly; barely better than a parking lot.

    Seems especially inappropriate for its setting.

  4. #4



    The Good Old-Fashioned Playground

    New York City planners, blessed with a patch of prime real estate, an infusion of private funding and the participation of a hot architect, have hatched a plan to endow Lower Manhattan with a play space that will feature no swings, slides or monkey bars (“too dangerous,” as a New York Times story put it). Instead, this “bold experiment” in child-development-theory-made-real will have low wooden ramps, “zones” of sand and water, and enchanting, innovative playthings like foam blocks and gaskets.

    The idea is to spur creativity. “Very little time is spent by kids in playgrounds if they have a choice,” said Roger Hart, a director of the Children’s Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a consultant on the playground project. Apparently, the kinds of playgrounds that generations of children have enjoyed are sadly inadequate. “They limit the repertoire of play to children’s physical activity,” Hart told the Times, which noted that the new park will encourage “the kind of social, sensory, interactive and individual fantasy play that children need.”

    The fact that engaging correctly in all this fantastic creativity will require the intervention of paid adult “play workers” doesn’t seem to bother anyone. But it bothers me.

    It’s not that I’m anti-creativity. I’d much rather see kids safely learn to relate to red foam squares than crack their heads open on old-fashioned concrete. But I’d also like to see public funding spent on activities that actually serve the common good. And I happen to think that an adult-mediated, cerebrally challenging outdoor space is the last thing that city kids need.

    (The whole “monkey bar” danger issue is actually kind of interesting: Metal “monkey bars,” also known to those of my generation as “jungle gyms,” really were pretty dangerous and rarely exist in playgrounds anymore, Donna Thompson, executive director of the National Program for Playground Safety, told me. “If boys fell on them, they could become sopranos,” she said. What we now refer to as “monkey bars” are officially called “horizontal ladders.” They can be made safe with decent surface padding and age-appropriate sizing.)

    In an age of epidemic childhood obesity, in an era when kids are no longer able to roam free, in a borough where children don’t have backyards or easy access to bike trails (assuming they’d be allowed to use them), in a time when school recess is becoming a rare commodity, it seems to me that what children need are more, not fewer, old-fashioned playgrounds: places where they can swing and climb and jump and slide. In an age of constant parental supervision and hyper-scheduling, it seems to me that adults need to stay well on the sidelines when kids play, and not ham it up among them, making grown-up intervention the main event.

    Educators aplenty these days warn of the dangers of too little child-only play: kids are coming into school lacking social skills, they say. They’re growing up self-centered and proving too dependent upon adult-initiated structure to be able to launch into, say, a playground pick-up game.

    One of my daughters used to see an O.T. (occupational therapist, for those of you not up on the lingo; and no – if you’re so very out of it that you have to pose this question – the profession is not just about workplace injuries; O.T.’s now provide a whole range of services to buff up muscularly and otherwise deficient kids). She told me that the fact that children are no longer playing traditional playground games is having physical repercussions. Things like jacks, hopscotch, jump-rope and swings used to build eye-hand coordination, balance, timing and abdominal strength. Organized sports like soccer build gross-motor skills and teamwork, but don’t do much for a whole range of fine-motor skills. All that’s good for business, she said, but bad for her clients, a fair number of whom, she told me, would best be “treated” by a steady diet of old-fashioned play.

    Sacrificing the true purpose of kids’ outdoor space – physical play – for the alleged purpose of enhancing creative cognition shows a real ignorance of the way children operate. As any parent knows, kids play the way they’re wired to play. If they’re creative types, they will turn a climbing structure into a castle. If they’re athletic, they’ll swing on any horizontal object within reach. The best way to hinder all that activity is to “facilitate” it with adult input. What adults ought to be doing is sitting back and setting priorities. Because that’s one thing our kids can’t do for themselves.

    Judith Warner's most recent book, "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety," a New York Times best-seller, was published in February 2005.

  5. #5


    Parks Dept. says slip up at Burling is temporary

    The Parks Dept. plan for Burling Slip has been rejected by the Art Commission.

    By Brooke Edwards

    Plans for the much-publicized new playground at Burling Slip were slowed but not halted after the city Art Commission proposed modifications to its design.

    The playground’s design team — made up of a partnership between the Parks Department and the Rockwell Group architectural design firm — presented their plans during a public hearing on Jan. 9.

    While most who attended the hearing agree that the feedback was generally positive, the majority of the members of the Art Commission — along with other groups present, including the Historic Districts Council and the community group SeaportSpeaks — expressed concern over two of the playground’s elements: the height of one piece of equipment and the obtrusiveness of the chain link fence that would enclose the park.

    “The project was tabled so that we can continue our work with the Art Commission to make some modifications,” wrote Ashe Reardon, spokesperson for the Parks Department, in an email on Wednesday. “This is common practice and not unusual whatsoever.”

    He said the Art Commission will not be able to halt the project if it rejects the modifications. “In actuality, the Art Commission is an advisory panel that the Parks Department partners with but they have no approval over this project,” Reardon wrote.
    Officials with the commission did not respond to requests for comment.

    The design team was understandably defensive after rumors began circulating on the Web that the Art Commission had rejected the plans altogether.

    Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel

    Burling Slip, quoting a tipster, reported that the plan “was killed by the City Art Commission… It’s dead.”

    Lee Gruzen, co-chairperson for SeaportSpeaks, attended the Art Commission hearing and said she thought the park would be approved soon. “The plan is really moving in the right direction. It just needs some enrichment, some continuity.”

    Gruzen said the main concern from her group is for the slip to still feel like a slip, remaining as open to the water as possible. That is why they were concerned over the height of one element.

    However, Gruzen said, “The Rockwell Group and the Parks Department have been fabulous about meeting and judging the needs of the public.” She is confident that they will continue to do so with these minor concerns.

    The construction of a playground at Burling Slip, which is currently a parking lot, is part of a $38 million plan to redevelop the neighborhood around Fulton St., including the historic Seaport district. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation gave $2 million to develop and maintain the playground. Soon after, the Rockwell Group — led by celebrated architect David Rockwell — took on designing the playground as a pro-bono project, and is raising private funds to meet anticipated costs.

    Named “Imagination Playground” by the Rockwell Group, the park made the front page of the New York Times last Wednesday and has sparked several follow-up articles due to its unique design and “play workers,” who will be on hand to assist with safe and constructive playtime.

    While a press release from the Parks Department dated Jan. 10 states that construction on the playground will begin in late 2007 — and other sources report opening dates of both fall 2008 and summer 2009 — Reardon refused to give a timeline for the project.

    Reardon said, “We do not have a new date to present the modified plan to the Art Commission but we hope to be back within the next couple of months.”

    Downtown Express is published by
    Community Media LLC.
    145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013

  6. #6


    No matter what they do, it will look wrong. This is no place for a playground.

  7. #7


    I'm afraid the alternative would be a lot of trees, given the desire to green everything.

  8. #8
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    East Midtown


    Judith Warner's opinion piece made a lot of sense to me.
    And the thing is so ugly.

  9. #9


    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    I'm afraid the alternative would be a lot of trees, given the desire to green everything.
    A few trees wouldn't hurt.

    Marketplace with cafe tables?

    Maybe a merry-go-round.

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    A few trees wouldn't hurt.

    Marketplace with cafe tables?

    Maybe a merry-go-round.
    Yeah, but a few trees escalates into a mini-park.

    Maybe resident needs and preserving the character of the area should be split between Burling and Peck slips

  11. #11


    Could the fish market return in retail guise? Throw in some vegetables and fruit as well.

  12. #12




    February 14, 2007 -- Imagination Playground - a multimillion-dollar futuristic site that will boast paid city workers whose sole duty is to play with kids - scaled a final hurdle yesterday, winning approval from the landmarks panel.

    "It was a very interesting dramatic proposal to begin with. Now I'm very happy to be a supporter of this project," Robert Tierney, chairman of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, said at a hearing yesterday.

    Commission members reviewed revisions to the park made by its designer, David Rockwell, and his team, who are doing the work for free.

    Rockwell, an architect whose work includes the restaurant Nobu and the Mohegan Sun casino, envisions an open, multilevel space with loads of sand, water, ramps, huge blocks, assorted toys and, of course, "play workers" to oversee it all.

    Rockwell plans to raise $2 million for upkeep of the playground, which will be located on Burling Slip, adjacent to the South Street Seaport.

    Copyright 2007 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

  13. #13


    Wow, is everyone going to be sorry when this is built?

  14. #14
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    in Limbo


    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    a multimillion-dollar futuristic site that will boast paid city workers whose sole duty is to play with kids
    I think I have heard it all now.

    In a city where some libraries only stay open a few hours a day in a handful of days during the week because of budget constraints, we are paying people to play with people's kids.


  15. #15



    They used to just hand out basketballs, and leave us alone.

    The breeding of neurotic kids.

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