Battery Plans for a Jungle Gym, Literally

Forty-eight hours after the historic park at Manhattan’s southern tip celebrated the much-anticipated opening of the Battery Oval, a magnificent, two-acre lawn, Warrie Price, the president of the Battery Conservancy was unveiling the planned, next phase of the park’s ongoing renaissance. “I’m here tonight to talk about the Battery PlayScape, which you will be voting on,” Ms. Price said at the June 28 meeting of Community Board 1 (CB1).

Battery Conservancy president Warrie Price (assisted by Paul Hovitz) explains the vision behind the planned PlayScape at the June 28 meeting of CB1.

The PlayScape is a plan devised by BKSK Architects and Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects that encloses a children’s playground with a raised sea wall. This topography (part of a larger system of storm surge barriers throughout the park, which was devastated by floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy in 2012) will afford toddlers the opportunity to scramble up and veer down a slide mountain, rappel from nets, and cross rope bridges, between three elevated houses in a small village. Overall, the facility (divided into sections with names like “Creativity Meadow,” “Imagination Marsh,” and “Adventure Bluffs”) will encompass approximately 60,000 square feet, making it one of the largest playgrounds south of 42nd Street. It will also include a 196-square-foot puppet theater for improvised performances. This design supplants an earlier playground concept by architect Frank Gehry, which was deemed unworkable after Hurricane Sandy spurred calls for greater resiliency measures throughout Lower Manhattan.
A designer’s rendition of the Creativity Meadow section, which will feature at 14-by-14 foot puppet theater, surrounded by a natural amphitheater of dunes and hills, that will double as storm-surge barriers.

The current vision for the Battery’s Playscape began to gather momentum in March of this year, when the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation allocated $4.8 million toward the $14 million overall cost of its development. The plan came before CB1 last week as a necessary prerequisite for consideration by the Public Design Commission, the City’s design review agency, which has jurisdiction over parks, open spaces, streetscapes, and other City-owned property.

Ms. Price pointed with pride to the inclusiveness of the new design, saying that, “handicapped child on top of a bluff can communicate with children who have climbed rope ladders or are on the rope bridge. So the handicapped child has the same experience, high up, into the tree canopy.”

A rendering of the Adventure Bluffs section of the PlayScape, which will contain five slides, fabricated from granite quarried in New York State.

Of the puppet theater, she noted, “here in New York, you would have thought we would have done this before in a playground,” adding that the surrounding landscape of dunes will also double, “as an amphitheater when we have shows.”

Ms. Price predicted that once approval is obtained from the Public Design Commission, the next steps will be, “construction drawings and the bidding process.” She added that, “over the next two and a half years, we hope to give you a first-class playground, three times larger than what was there before.” The current schedule calls for construction on the PlayScape to begin later this year, and be completed sometime in 2019.

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