On Monday, Mayor Eric Adams promised to “immediately” reopen a playground in a Bronx public housing complex that was closed in early 2019 due to drug trafficking in the area – but four days later the park for Kids is still closed and nowhere near ready to open according to a city official.
“I can’t buy into the theory that somebody commits a crime on the playground that we want to penalize kids,” Adams told reporters at a news conference earlier this week. “It’s not acceptable.”
“And those that are closed due to illegal activities that have taken place, we open them immediately,” he added.
His pledge came days after THE CITY reported that the Morrisania Air Rights Towers playground had been padlocked for three years with no scheduled reopening date.
But on Thursday, a spokesperson for the New York City Housing Authority said the agency was not even close to reopening the beleaguered Park Avenue playground.
The playground “has a history of heavy drug activity and will require overnight police presence and/or cameras to be installed for community safety,” NYCHA spokesperson Rochel Leah Goldblatt said.
Housing agency officials plan to “visit” the space “to assess needed repairs and plan if necessary,” she added.
The playground had been closed for so long that some tenants and elected officials had no idea the closure had been ordered by the NYPD.
Adams said cops should never shut down playgrounds.
“I will tell you this, there will be no closed playground because there is illegal activity,” he said during his press conference on Monday. “We will fix the illegal activity.”
The police department repeatedly declined requests for comment on the closure.
Jump through ramshackle hoops
Long-time tenants of the complex have welcomed a possible reopening.
“You see parents and kids coming up and going home saying, ‘Oh, it’s not open,'” said Jarred Vance, 27, who plays basketball on a court at the 161st Street complex. .
Another resident, Sam Santiago, 35, said he usually takes his 8-year-old daughter, Angelica, to the nearby public park or a playground in the Jackson Houses across the street because he there is a sprinkler.
“We have a few options,” he noted. “But it’s crazy. You have to jump through hoops, because they don’t try to.
There are four other playgrounds in The Bronx housing complex. One had been closed due to a sinkhole but appears to be partially reopened and construction is nearing completion. Another reopened on May 27 after being closed due to unsafe conditions, and two are open and operational, but with outdated equipment.
Last summer, THE CITY showed dilapidated playground equipment still in use to an expert who recommended the structures be buried in the ocean.
“It’s stuff that comes out on a barge and gets thrown out to sea to form a reef,” said Thomas Thompsonan Issaquah, Wash.-based playground safety consultant.
He noted that any playground built before 1991 no longer meets industry standards based on federal safety guidelines and should be replaced.
Morrisania’s closed locations are just two of 98 New York City Housing Authority playgrounds currently on lockdown due to unsafe conditions. For decades, NYCHA failed to repair old gaming equipment.
The overwhelming majority – 48 – would be closed for “Sandy’s recovery and resilience work”, according to NYCHA.
A further 20 locations are closed for refurbishment and 30 are closed due to repairs to nearby buildings or areas, the housing authority said.
Some of the closed locations have languished for years without any plans for repair.
This includes a playground in the Marlboro Houses, in Gravesend, Brooklyn, where equipment was removed in 2018 and never replaced.
Schedule a play date
A spokesperson for Adams on Thursday referred all questions about public housing playgrounds to NYCHA.
On Monday, Adams, like former mayor Bill de Blasio, promised to come up with a “comprehensive plan” to renovate the city’s gated and dilapidated playgrounds after years of neglect.
“So we’re going to do an analysis of every closed playground,” Adams told reporters. “I’m going to find out why, and we’re going to have a schedule for when they’re going to be open.”
That’s still being worked on, according to NYCHA records, which show multiple locations with no expected completion date or estimated cost.
As for playgrounds operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, an agency spokesperson said he had no idea how many of its 1,000 playgrounds have were shut down at the request of the NYPD.
“We are not tracking playground closures by/in coordination with PD,” said Parks Department spokeswoman Crystal Howard. “These types of closures tend to be fluid and if they are punctual they may not be shared with us at times.”
Overall, 36 Parks Department playgrounds were closed due to repairs as of June 21, records show.