Are You Living in an NYC Playground Desert?

Are You Living in an NYC Playground Desert?

While Manhattan has 15 playgrounds within walking distance per 10,000 children, Brooklyn only has 8 spots per 10,000 kids who want to play outside.

For a city with so many kids and so many opportunities for enrichment, New York has a playground crisis. The city is full of “playground deserts,” places similar to food deserts in that living in one means you do not have access to resources such as healthy, fresh food–or a designated place to play. Many NYC neighborhoods lack within-walking-distance monkey bars, swing sets, slides, and more, according to a report from Controller Scott Stringer, and the city’s playground per capita rate places it behind 47 other major cities including Detroit, Chicago, and Boston.

NYC has about 2,067 public playgrounds, but more than a million children ages 10 and younger. According to the report, even when kids do have access to a playground within walking distance, the equipment can be dangerous and mismanaged. More than half of the 1,028 playgrounds run by the Parks Department had at least one “hazardous” feature requiring “immediate attention” in their most recent inspection last year. At those 521 dangerous playgrounds were 807 hazards that could cause slight or moderate harm to kids–and 29, such as broken equipment, fences, and safety surfaces, that could lead to debilitating or life threatening injuries.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn has the poorest ratio of playgrounds to kids, and the borough’s playgrounds have the highest risk of harming kids. There are only 8 playgrounds to choose from per 10,000 Brooklyn kids, and the city deemed 24% of available spaces “unacceptable” and/or “unsafe or unsanitary.”

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The report mentions NYC’s changing demographics as the main culprit for playground deserts. In the 15 neighborhoods with the lowest ratio of playgrounds to kids, the number of children increased by 13.8% between 2010 and 2017. There are more children in the city than its current playgrounds can serve, both in terms of safety and accessibility.

Stringer wants the city to spend up to $300 million to build 200 more playgrounds in the next five years, and use underused streets such as dead ends to create more play space. He also proposed turning more schoolyards into playgrounds, especially in Queens, Brooklyn, and Bronx neighborhoods that are seeing a spike in child populations. According to an article in the New York Daily News, Mayor de Blasio’s office said that the city is in the process of reconstructing 67 playgrounds that haven’t seen renovations in decades, and has converted 14 schoolyards into playgrounds so far.

“By investing in playgrounds, we are investing in the future of our children," said de Blasio spokeswoman Jane Meyer. “We are investing millions of dollars to ensure our kids have space to be kids.”