City Comptroller John C. Liu today announced that a series of borough-specific audits found the Parks Department was slow to fix hazardous conditions in some playgrounds and may have missed others in its regular inspections. Although Parks generally inspected playgrounds as required, in many instances the agency didn’t fix problems, including rusted and broken equipment, even after they were flagged for repair.
Over the course of four months Liu’s office found these safety mats in East River Playground at 106th Street in disrepair, but the Parks Department disagrees over the length of time they were unacceptable. NYC Park Advocates however has been monitoring the conditions at this playground and has found the safety surfacing has been in serious disrepair for years. (Photo: Courtesy Comptroller's office)
“Parents shouldn’t have to worry about their children playing on broken equipment or near rat holes – especially after Parks’ own inspectors have already reported the hazards,” Comptroller Liu said. “In some cases, the Parks Department is inexplicably slow to give its full attention to poor playground conditions and needs to better meet its own guidelines for making badly needed repairs.”
The Parks Department randomly inspects 205 playgrounds every two weeks – and each site in the City is usually inspected twice a year. Inspection reports are forwarded to Parks staff for review and correction of unacceptable conditions. Hazardous conditions such as protruding bolts, broken or damaged equipment or benches, etc., are supposed to be repaired within two to four weeks. Parks inspectors then revisit those playgrounds to verify whether the problems have been corrected.
Auditors inspected 107 playgrounds in all five boroughs in July 2011. At many locations, they found problems were still present months after Parks’ own inspections had brought them to light. In other cases, the auditors found hazards that had not been included on the most recent Parks inspection report.
Rats frolic in Tompkins Square Park - Manhattan. (Photos: Courtesy Comptroller's office)
Trip Hazzard. Protruding metal at Hammel Playground - In Far Rockaway, Queens.
Auditors inspected 22 Manhattan playgrounds in July 2011.
Dry Dock Playground, East 10th Street and Avenue D:
- Parks inspectors reported that protruding cobblestones caused safety mats to be lifted and created a tripping hazard on December 2, 2010. When auditors visited 207 days later, in July 2011, they saw that the problem hadn’t been fixed and had grown worse.
East River Playground, FDR Drive and East 106th Street:
- On February 8, 2011, Parks inspectors noted 10% of safety mats were broken or deteriorated. When auditors visited 139 days later, they found the problem had expanded to 25% of the mats, a portion of which were now barricaded.
- Auditors found that bolts were missing from a wooden slat in a ramp used by children, a hazard not mentioned in Parks inspectors’ February report.
Tompkins Square Park:
- Auditors found a rat infestation adjacent to the playground in July that was not mentioned in Parks Department inspectors’ reports filed in April and May 2011.
Auditors inspected 30 playgrounds in Brooklyn in July 2011.
Fox Playground, Avenue H and Avenue I at East 54th and East 55th streets:
- Auditors found badly damaged benches with missing slats and peeling paint on July 14, 2011, but there was no mention of them in the Parks inspection report filed one day earlier.
Hickman Playground, Veterans Avenue between East 66th and East 68th streets:
- A Parks inspection reported on April 1, 2011, that safety mats were no longer attached and uplifting, but auditors found the problem persisted 104 days later.
Homecrest Playground, Shore Parkway and Williams Court:
- A Parks inspection report in December 2010 noted safety mats were no longer attached and uplifting. In July 2011, 279 days later, auditors found the problem had yet to be fixed.
Auditors inspected 33 playgrounds in Queens in July 2011.
Hammel Playground, Rockaway Beach Boulevard, between Beach 84th and Beach 81st streets:
- The auditors’ inspection in July 2011 found a dangerously protruding metal bracket at the entrance that was not mentioned in the Parks inspection two months earlier.
Highland Park, Lower Highland Playground, Jamaica Avenue and Elton Street:
- The Parks inspection report on March 21, 2011, reported that a section of the safety surface was missing. When auditors visited 113 days later, the safety mats were scattered, overturned, and missing.
Auditors inspected 17 playgrounds in the Bronx in July 2011.
Soundview Playground, Bronx River at Lafayette Avenue:
- Parks inspectors reported rotted and splintered playground equipment on March 28, 2011. Auditors inspected the playground 106 days later and found conditions unchanged.
Noble Playground, Noble Avenue between Bronx River Avenue and East 177th Street:
- Parks inspectors reported 15% of the safety mats were deteriorated on May 6, 2011. Auditors found the condition of the mats unchanged two months later.
Auditors inspected five playgrounds in Staten Island.
- The auditors’ inspections determined that the condition of the playgrounds matched the reports filed by Parks inspectors and that problems were addressed in a timely manner.
The Parks Department, in its response, said it would “prioritize repairs depending on the severity of these conditions” and will make “the best effort to address outstanding items, which is dependent on existing resources and materials as well as the availability of manpower.” However, it disagreed over whether certain hazards were not corrected in a timely manner.
The audit inspected 107 playgrounds. Each inspection occurred at a specific time and, as a result, each inspection was unique to each playground and cannot be projected to others that are not part of the audit. The audit inspected playgrounds in July 2011 and compared the findings to the most recent Parks Department reports. The scope of the audits was July 2011 to November 2011.
Comptroller Liu credited Deputy Comptroller for Audit Tina Kim and the Audit Bureau for presenting the findings. The latest audit reports are available at: http://comptroller.nyc.gov/audits <http://comptroller.nyc.gov/audits> .