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Some NYC Parks Get High Design; Why Others Can't Afford It

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Some of New York's green lungs may be totally hidden around the city, but others are right in plain sight?made even more noticeable because their designs are innovative, off-the-wall, and wacky. At a cost of about $120 million, the WSJ reports, the Parks Department has renovated some 50 playgrounds over the last five years that have an element of architectural craziness... or at least uniqueness beyond standard-issue slides, jungle gyms, and swings. To name just a few, there's the Ancient Playground near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, meant to reflect the Egyptian art wing and the Temple of Dendur, which it faces; Long Island City's Gantry Plaza State Park, which has some abstract apparati and a red rope hill for kids to climb; Chinatown's Hester Street Playground, which has some Asian motifs, like a moon gate on the climbing gym; Main Street Playground in Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is shaped like a tall ship; and Rainey Park in Long Island City, which is inspired by Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi, who has a museum nearby.

Meanwhile, the Times reports, not all neighborhoods are privy to such high-end outlets for creative play. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the wealth disparities between, say, the Upper East Side and Canarsie. Rather, the inclinations and decisions of City Council members and borough presidents are a key factor in determining which areas will get recreational facelifts and which will not. While city funding is crucial for large-scale projects, smaller initiatives reply on support from more local sources. The Times contrasts Canarsie Park with Kelly Park in Sheepshead Bay, explaining that in Canarsie, council member Lewis Fidler has devoted millions towards improving parks while in office. It's a bit of an ongoing battleground: who should have to pay for these kinds of facelifts?local or city agencies?

At the same time, renovations and upgrades continue to be made, even as some city parks are left behind. Architect David Rockwell has championed the Imagination Playground, and while the first one was built along the waterfront in the Financial District, the second is slated for a 2015 opening for Brownsville's Betsy Head Park, deep in blue-collar Brooklyn. Check out a rendering of the Brownsville plan below followed by photos of the existing Imagination Playground.

Imagination Playground

Rainey Park
This park was one of the first to buck the trend of traditional playgrounds. Noguchi was a fan of climbing walls, abstract mounds, and other boundary-pushing places for kids to play. Check out the Parks Department's video for more.

· New York City's Playgrounds Swing Toward New Design Models [WSJ]
· A Little-Known Reason for Disparities in New York's Parks [NYT]
· 40 Secret Gardens, Parks, and Green Spaces Hidden Around NYC [Curbed]
· All Parks coverage [Curbed]