Danger Roo's Playground Review: East 72nd Street (Central Park)
“Challenge is integral to the notion of play.” —M. Paul Friedberg.
Designed by Richard Dattner (1970). Renovated in 2015.
Official Website: East 72
Roo’s family’s Nickname for it: “Cool Slide” (with the nearby Billy Johnson Playground being the “Big Slide”)
Where is it? Right inside Central Park at East 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue
Note: This is not a toddler playground. There is NOTHING here designed for a toddler. Baby swings? No. Little climbing structure? No. They took those things out during the reno, and did not bring them back.
But a super fast and steep slide, tire swings right in the middle of the play space, and lots of concrete? Check, check, and check.
However, this is a Danger Roo Review, and Danger Roo doesn’t care for your safety regulations.
The originators of the adventure playgrounds wanted parents to be invisible, to blend into the surroundings. The new seating at 72 along the low wall around the outside of the play space is great for this (and a vast improvement over previous seating and harsh iron fence). Unless you have a 1 year old. Then, as this is not a toddler space, you’ll need to be a tad more vigilant and present. “Oh no, she’s wandering toward the tire swings again.”
”She probably won’t trip over that concrete curb and tumble down those concrete steps.”
But if the Roo is asleep, then by all means, Mom and Dad will sit on the wall and watch the life in Central Park.
Favorite Aspect: The Pyramid Slide is the soul of this playground—happily, it was preserved in the renovation. The slide is STEEP. When it’s slick, and a kid is wearing low friction clothing (like dry fleece) it is super fast!
The pyramid invites a rough and tumble, test your agility, make your parents nervous style of play.
Tire Swings: The tire swings came back post-renovation. Unfortunately (we guess due to safety laws) these are not real tires. But slick, hard, hollow plastic tires. There’s no foothold like on a real tire and the seat is slippery. Still fun. But not as fun.
Climbing Structure: As a baby, Charlie loved the wooden climbing structure here. Before he could walk, he crawled its ramp. As he grew, he waddled, then ran up the ramp, down the poles. In the renovation, that structure and the four baby swings were replaced by four swings for grade school kids. Not ideal. Here are a couple other issues:
The Kids’ reviews:
Benny: I like the slide. I like going down it with mommy. The water is fun too, but I think it’s too cold now.
Josie: I didn’t used to like tire swings, but now I do. I like that they added the big swings, but I wish there was a swing for Roo. I do like the floor now. There used to be too much sand. It was always in my shoes
Charlie: The slide is ok. And I like that it’s right next to the field (east green) so I can play catch. It’s fun for tag and sorta fun for hide-and-seek. The water is better because it actually works now but I liked the old rope climbing tower and the other tire swings
Roo: (Dad put words to her actions) I want to be able to climb that pyramid and I’ll keep trying and grunting and screeching and crying a bit until I can
The kids attempted to grade the playground, but the results were questionable. Josie, not wanting to bruise any feelings, gave everything an A. Benny was capricious—the tire swing was a 10 out of 10 one day and a 0 out of 7 the next. Charlie wanted to grade features by assigning each one a baseball team according to his own personal hierarchy. So the slide would be the Mets, because it’s his favorite thing, and the new chain climbing tower would be the Phillies because he can’t stand either. Dad said to use something more universal like: hit, home run, strike-out...
Charlie said never mind.
So Dad took their opinions and compiled the grades.
Jim Fenzel is a work-from-home artist/ writer and father of 4 NYC kids. Support his work by visiting his Society6 page for merch.
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- December 2018
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Read more about Adventure Playground architects Richard Dattner and M. Paul Friedberg in this article from DWELL