Volume 19 Issue 34 | January 5 - 11, 2007

Renderings of city-Rockwell Group plan to build a new playground at Burlling Slip

Seaport children’s slip is coming in

By Janel Bladow

A new state-of-the-art, park-like playground may be headed to the South Street Seaport.

Community Board 1 overwhelmingly passed a resolution to approve the Burling Slip playground last month.

The design proposal is a joint effort between the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Rockwell Group. Parks’ project manager Lawrence Mauro made a presentation last month before C.B. 1’s Seaport Committee.

“The whole design represents a cooperation between several city agencies,” Mauro said. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is also funding the playground, which is getting an endowment from The Rockwell Group.

Burling Slip is the wide area at John St. between Front and South Sts. The current angled parking will be replaced with parallel parking.

The Seaport’s cobblestone walkways will extend south to incorporate the playground. Visually, the idea is to maintain the area’s flat plane appearance. To pedestrians the playground will look as if it is floating in a field of granite paving stones.

The playground is a figure eight, ship-like shape on a raised hard surface with limited groupings of trees, shrubs and other greenery. The object is to keep the area’s overall feel of a working slip.

“A large amount of trees is considered a serious intervention to this historic space,” said Mauro.

Built-in seating rings part of the play area. Other seating includes scattered benches and tables with chairs, many facing the water.

Children’s play areas include sand and water features to give the space a connection to its waterfront home.

Estimated timeframe for the playground is wrap up drawings and construction bidding by July 2007. Construction will take 12 months. The playground should open to the public in the fall of 2008.

These deadlines depend on approvals from the State Historic Preservation Office.

Included in the proposal is the unusual concept of play-workers or playground staffers, on hand for training and educational purposes. If a success, this experimental program will then expand to other places around the city, said Mauro.

Workers will be hired and trained by the Dept. of Parks and Recreation and salaries covered by the Rockwell Group grant. Two to four staffers will be on hand during peak spring and summer months while one permanent worker will remain in the park through the colder, winter months.

While the C.B. 1 committee supported the Burling Slip playground proposal, several concerns and issue were raised.

The loss of valuable angled street parking concerned several residents attending the meeting. Mauro said the new parallel parking on both sides of John St. should adequately make up for the changes.

But safety issues and lack of restroom facilities concerned most committee members. Having parents and small children cross South St. to reach existing public restrooms raised discussion of adding a new traffic light on the north-south thoroughfare at John St. Also discussed was providing facilities at the playground itself.

An overlapping topic, the Pearl Street Playground renovation, was also taken up at last month’s committee meeting. The committee voted to fast-track design and construction because members said the community so desperately needs playgrounds for its growing number of families with young children.

Parks Department representative Mauro offered two construction proposals, both putting the playground out of commission while the Burling Slip project was still in development stages.

Much discussion centered on closing the block-long south bound street west of Pearl St. between Beekman and Fulton Sts., which was referred to as “Little Pearl Street.” Several committee members wanted to see the street absorbed into the playground.

A city Department of Transportation analysis of the street cited heavy usage during peak morning hours and recommended it stay open. Various committee members took issue with the D.O.T. findings and suggested C.B. 1 commission its own study.

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