A playground on the corner of Morningside Avenue and 123rd Street will soon be even more kid-friendly.
At a Community Board 9 meeting on Wednesday night, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation announced plans, budgeted at $4 million, to renovate the aging playground, located in the northeastern corner of Morningside Park.
Nancy Prince, deputy chief of design at the Parks Department, and Tristan Porto, a Parks Department landscape architect, said they hope to reduce the amounts of pavement and fencing around Playground 123.
“There’s a lot of chain-link fences—it feels like you’re encaged,” Prince said. “It is a visual impediment to the area.”
Prince said the renovation plans to make the park more handicap and stroller accessible, beautify the surrounding area, and install more extensive, age-appropriate play spaces.
After the renovations, “when you’re in the playground, you have some green also, so you’re not totally surrounded by asphalt,” she said. “And when you enter the park, the fences are below eye level.”
The upper level of the playground will house new play equipment geared toward two- to five-year-olds, while the lower level will be for five- to 12-year-olds. Prince said having distinct areas with different types of equipment would discourage toddlers from climbing on the higher playground equipment meant for older children and from getting in the way of the older children who are faster and more active.
The renovated park will include three sets of swings, and each will be handicap accessible with head, back, and leg support.
“I’m glad to see it moving forward,” CB9 Parks and Recreation Committee chair Brad Taylor said. “Frankly, I didn’t expect it to happen this year with all the budget cuts. It seems the Parks Department is trying to get things in the ground and they’re really eager to get this one started.”
The offices of Councilwoman Inez Dickens and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer set aside gifts to fund the project across the last five years.
“It’s not often that council-people can collect that kind of money,” Prince said. “But this is a big park—it needed a lot of money.”
Taylor said that, while the committee has had to make the “inevitable concession” over the years that the renovations would take place in two phases of construction, he is very happy with the substantial size of the budget.
Prince said she estimates that, if the proposal meets with approval at all the local levels, the Parks Department will hear contractors’ bids in October and construction will begin in March of 2012 and last for approximately one year.
During the meeting, CB9 member Savona Bailey McClain expressed concern that the playground’s double function as recreational area for three local schools could be disrupted during the construction.
Prince said she had met with the gym teacher who coordinates physical education for all three schools and learned that the outdoor classes made more use of the areas that will be affected in the second, currently unfunded, phase of construction.