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.
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 8, 2010
A Walk In the Park - April 7, 2010