Monday, May 24, 2010

Union Square Playground's Metal Dome Burning Kids

Dome Closed Due to Heat. May 21, 2010. Warning signs and caution tape were were finally put up on the large metal dome climbing structure on Friday in Evelyn's Playground in Union Square Park. The play feature was later re-opened to the public after the sun disappeared. Temperatures are expected to rise later this week. (Photos By: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)


By Geoffrey Croft

For months, children have been playing a dangerous game at the new $2 million playground in Union Square Park: How to avoid getting scalded on a seven-foot-high metal dome.

The play equipment reaches scorching temperatures in the sun. Heat waves can be seen rising from the top.

May 1, 2010. Children trying to cool their hands off after getting burned on the metal play feature, three weeks before the City even bothered to put up a sign.

The city learned of these hazardous conditions first hand in early April, when intense media attention focused on children's burns on domes at Brooklyn Bridge Park made from similar material. That new playground was designed by the same landscape consultant firm responsible for Union Square, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. The consultant was hired by The Union Square Partnership (BID).

"The burning orbs of death" was the nickname bestowed on the much-smaller play feature by a local paper. Another report on the Brooklyn story by News Four on April 7, included a shot from the Union Square playground. The metal orbs were quickly covered at Brooklyn Bridge Park, but the city has refused to even post a warning at Union Square. On Friday afternoon, however, a Parks Department employee was forced to close off the blazing orb, placing traffic cones and flimsy caution tape around it. A shade structure is supposed to go up sometime according to the Parks Department, but warmer weather will arrive first. Temperatures are expected to shoot up later this week.

"Not good," said a Parks Department employee reacting to the scorching hot metal. "I guess It hasn't been in the paper enough. That's how things work here," the employee responded when asked why the Parks Department had yet to even warn the public of the dangers.

(May 17, 2010) Parents are also worried about the potential of small children tripping and landing on their faces or other exposed body parts on the dangerously hot surface. Tape and cones will not protect children from the scorching heat.

Parents questioned the wisdom of installing new equipment without testing it first. "Don't they test these things before they install them?" fumed one parent whose daughter cut her lip from running into two talk tubes near the metal orbs. "Who designs these things? There is not enough space here. And plus its packed, you can't move sometimes."

New York City does not require that playground equipment be tested for heat before being installed. In January, state Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) introduced legislation which would mandate that all play equipment and materials be tested first.

The Union Square playground has been plagued with safety issues since its opening. One piece of equipment was recently removed. Another piece had to be modified, slowing it down because kids were falling off. A tall spinning wheel located at the easternmost part of the playground is an accident waiting to happen. A 14-year-old boy was recently seen flying into a water fountain and crumbing to the floor in anguish. He had to be dragged away by a classmate. Parents have also complained about very steep steps on a slide – children have been falling backwards – and poor sight lines cause by new trees.

A lack of play equipment and benches available for people with disabilities has also been a major issue in the playground.

Parents test the Heat.

Read More:

NY 1 - May 24, 2010 - By Anthony Pascale

New York Post - By Rich Calder and Shari Logan - May 24, 2010

A Walk In the Park - April 7, 2010


  1. The extemely poor and dangerous design of these parks to me is symptomatic of what is produced by the same ubiquitous greed responsible for the latest recession. Food is bred for color, size, travel resistance and shelf life, as opposed to its flavor and nutrient value. These parks were obviously designed with an eye to flashy expense and absolutely no thought about safely challenging children--not to mention adults. A favorite pasttime of mine, first acquired as a little girl, is swinging. The only adult swings I could find were in Squibb Park--a delightful place to swing with its view over the hill that goes steeply down to Furman Street. Ever since the murder there, which happened several years ago, it has been closed. Parks need to also have active equipment for larger children and adults. This age needs more Van der Doncks, George Washingtons, John Adams, Buckminster Fullers, Jacques Cousteaux, Eric Sandersons and Daniel Squadrons and fewer Stuyvesants, Bloombergs, Van Valkenburgs, Gates and Walentas. The Dock Street building proposed to shadow the Brooklyn Bridge should be abandoned and the carousel needs to find another home. Instead of embracing the noble heritage of the lands at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, where Washington prudently withdrew his soldiers under the cover of night, the site will be littered with expensive trinkets and thoughtlessly bulldozed away by the predatory profit mill that makes grist of the city's natural resources. These are the very same commercial predators from which Adam Smith cautioned the consumers need protection. Here, too, our public officials have been derelict. It is already too late for the Purchase building and the former landmark building defaced to TEMPORARILY! house Jane's Carousel. Stop this travesty before it gets worse.

  2. while in the new Union Square playground last weekend, I saw three children hurt by the play equipment. One child ran to his mother holding out his hands which were red from the heat of the metal dome and asked his mother for gloves so he could continue to play on it!!!

    Another six-year old girl climbed the high steps of the metal slide and as she raised her head at near the top step in order to go on the slide, she cracked her head at the bridge of her nose against a metal rod place there ostensibly to keep the top sides of the slide steady. She almost passed out from the impact on her nose and her parent was able to get her down to comfort her and assess the damage to her nose.

    And finally, a 7-year old boy fell from the fast moving whirly-gig and was crying with pain as he held onto his leg which was bruised from the fall. It seems, older children enter the playground and cause a good deal of havoc among the younger children. They spin the whirly-gig so fast that younger children, not aware of how tightly they have to hold on, are literally thrown off from the speed.

    Surely, children do get hurt in playgrounds, but in each of these cases, the equipment provided for them too often makes accidents happen. Lucky for them that their injuries were not worse. Each of these accidents could have been forseen and prevented. As it is the playground is a place where accidents are most certainly going to happen. What is the Parks Dept. doing to protect the children from such dangers?

  3. I am not surprised at all about the problems with the Union Square playground. Whoever designed it certainly didn't have the safety of the children in mind. Not only does the dome get burning hot, but children fall off of it all the time. The swinging structure behind it is another major accident waiting to happen. Not only do kids go flying off and fall to the ground, they could easily fly into the rocks near by and hit their heads. More often though, they knock over a toddler who happens to walk by at the wrong time. I have never seen so many children get injured so often as at this playground. Maybe they need to at least keep children under a certain age out of the dome area. Yes, and shade and comfortable benches would be a major plus for the adults.

  4. the silver dome through a child's eyes: