Volume 79, Number 33 | January 20 - 26, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Children and their parents enjoyed the new playground in the north end of Union Square Park on Monday.

New Union Square playground getting rave reviews

By Albert Amateau

The new, expanded Union Square Park playground opened two weeks ago with little fanfare from the Department of Parks and the Union Square Partnership. But word got around quickly to children and parents, who flocked to the space at the north end of the park.

It took a mild school-holiday morning on Mon., Jan. 18 — Martin Luther King Day — to bring out the crowds of neighbors and visitors to the newly completed, 15,000-square-foot playground.

“My daughter Kalen used to play in the old one,” said Newelle McDonald, who lives in the neighborhood. “She’s 12 years old now and she started coming here with her middle school friends to climb on the silver dome. It looks great — I’d like to try it myself,” McDonald said.

The climbing-and-sliding silver dome is one of the features in the new playground’s eastern side designed for older children. A center section of the playground, just in front of the pavilion, is designed for children ages 5 to 12. It has a spinning teacup called The Nest, and features a water area with a fountain and a mist device that will open in the summer. The western section, designed for toddlers and children up to age 5, has a large swing set, climbing platforms with slides and, opening in the summer, a sand-and-water play area.

Micki Smith, with Maximilian, her 6-month-old son, came for a visit on Monday.

“He’s a little too young, but we’ve walked through it three or four times last week,” said Smith, who lives on E. 10th St. “It’s so nice, I can’t wait to bring him here when he’s a little older.” Smith said she was glad the new playground was expanded from the 5,000 square feet of the original. “It gives kids who live in small apartments space to run,” she said.

The playground is open from 8 a.m. to dusk and has several entry points along the park’s 16th St. transverse. The playground is part of the renovation of the north end of Union Square Park, a joint project of the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Union Square Partnership, the business improvement district, or BID, that includes Union Square Park.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled that the Union Square Park’s expanded playground is open,” Jennifer Falk, executive director of the partnership, said last week. “The kids have given it a huge thumbs up and parents and caregivers have been overwhelmingly positive.”

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said, “The opening gives families in the Union Square neighborhood a spectacular, modern, unified playground for children of all ages that is nearly triple its original size. Our collaboration with the Union Square Partnership has enabled us to create an exciting play space within a renovated north plaza that will include, when completed, a restored pavilion, public restrooms, new paving and many more trees.”

The north-end restoration is 95 percent complete, with work on the pavilion remaining.

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