Volume 20, Number 40 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 22 - 28, 2010
Swing returns to W. Thames Park; BPC wants M9 back
BY Aline Reynolds
The New York State Department of Transportation will be closing West Thames Park for renovations in late September or early October.
“We’re looking at closing it for between one and two weeks,” said Lisa Weiss, urban design director for the D.O.T.’s Route 9a project, which included a makeover of the park.
The park proved more popular than expected, which “does lead to some wear and tear that we didn’t anticipate,” said Adam Levine, director of public affairs at the D.O.T.
Workers will fix the drainage system in the water play area, which has caused flooding problems; and replace the worn-out rope attached to the toddler jungle gym. The D.O.T. will also make repairs to the safety surface, which has cracked and discolored as a result of the summer heat wave. Parts of the lawn will also have to be replaced.
“The lawn looks terrible – I can’t believe it’s in such bad shape,” said Battery Park City resident and B.P.C. Committee board member Anthony Notaro, who walked by the park last week.
The problems, he added, need to be fixed “as quickly and as permanently as possible.”
The D.O.T. will also be resurrecting the playground’s controversial tire swing during the one-to-two week period that the park will be closed.
In July, the Community Board 1 B.P.C. Committee created a task force headed by Notaro to reevaluate the safety of the swing, following several reports of children hitting their heads on the swing’s wooden beam. The group concluded based on D.O.T. research that the tire swing complies with national safety standards and poses no serious safety hazard to children.
“We weren’t in a position to conduct an independent safety assessment,” said B.P.C. Committee chair Jeff Galloway.
The group did recommend extra padding to the unit’s wooden beams, along with signage stating safety precautions, but the D.O.T. declined to implement either suggestion.
“The padding can actually make the warrantee null and void,” Weiss said. The signage was also not advisable, since it has not proven necessary at the units at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx or in Central Park.
“The discussion that ensued is that playgrounds are not accident-free, and that kids learn how to use the equipment,” Weiss added. The tire swing, in particular, has a “large awareness factor now.”
Community member Bill Schoenmaker is dismayed by the task force’s decision. His 8-year-old daughter, Julianne, smacked her head against the tire swing’s wooden beam on Memorial Day weekend, when the playground reopened to the public, and was dizzy for a few days thereafter. Schoenmaker, furious, proceeded to dismantle the swing himself. The D.O.T. reinstalled the swing when it opened the new playground in early July, only to take it down a week later per the community’s request.
“I’m just completely confused and disappointed,” he said, particularly since the task force was designed to find a solution to the problem. “What we’re going to have to do is wait until someone gets hurt, like a child getting a concussion and us having to call an ambulance.”
“We will continue to work with the committee, the Battery Park City Authority and the B.P.C. Parks Conservancy to complete our work in the park, at which point Battery Park City will have full maintenance responsibility,’ said Weiss.
C.B. 1 asks M.T.A. for Bus Route Changes
The B.P.C. Committee has prepared a resolution requesting the Metropolitan Transit Authority to restore service to the M9 bus, following a series of service cuts made over the summer.
The resolution states, “If the M9 cannot be restored, Community Board 1 urges the M.T.A. to extend the M15 from South Ferry into Battery Park City and the M22 from Vesey Street into South Battery Park City.”
C.B. 1 proposed that the M15 make a final stop at South End Avenue and Liberty Street, where the M9 used to terminate prior to the cuts; and that the M22 make a stop at Battery Place and Little West Street, where the M20 once made a stop.
On behalf of her constituents, Councilmember Margaret Chin asked that the M.T.A. “help lessen the negative effects of these cuts on ‘vulnerable’ residents in Battery Park City and the Financial District.”
The letter states, “due to the elimination of the M9, people traveling between Battery Park City and other areas of New York City are required to make more transfers, and, seniors, the mobility-impaired, and students particularly rely on buses.”
It continues, “Most importantly for my District, Battery Park City does not have any subway stations within it, and cross-town transit is particularly difficult in Lower Manhattan.”