Frank Lovece in Board Operations
"Brokers who show the building point out our playground, along with the gym, the parking garage, and other amenities," notes Steve Vernon, president of the 1952-vintage Nagle Apartments (a.k.a. NaBors Apartments) in upper Manhattan, which converted to co-op in 1982.
Helen Lee, director of Onex Real Estate Partners, which developed and manages the new Sky View Parc in Flushing,Queens, says that complex's rooftop playground "absolutely" is a selling point, "especially with young families. It was conceived at the outset when we were developing the plan. We also have an indoor play area with Mac computers, video games, and arts-and-craft tables."
"There's a whole science behind it, a lot more than when we were kids," says Andrew Kunz, owner of W.E.I.T. Creative Solutions, a playground contractor. He and others say it's wise to speak with a consultant; most are affiliated with playground design-and-installation companies, such as the nationwide Landscape Structures and Grounds for Play. In the case of Sky View Parc, Lee says Onex retained a landscape designer, Moss Gilday Group, and a landscaper, Steven Dubner, who referred the developer to the multinational, Denmark-based company Kompan.
A Time to Work, A Time to Play
The fall season is a good time to plan, lining up your contractors when the work is slow and the prices are down. The first step: deciding whether you have the space. If your co-op or condo has a courtyard or is a garden-apartment complex, space can be on open ground. Otherwise, and as is often done in new construction, you'll find rooftop playgrounds, some with a screen enclosure.
Brokers who show the building
point out our playground,
along with the gym, the parking
garage, and other amenities.
The design of your playground comes next. A plethora of companies manufacture playground equipment — individual pieces, all-in-ones, modular mix-and-match units — and often have in-house playground designers who use computer-assisted design to create views, perspectives, site plans, and color 3D renderings for boards to examine.
"There are a couple of things that dictate design," says Kunz. Primarily, it's "the size of the space you have. All playground equipment needs a 'use zone,' which is six feet around the equipment. That's the Consumer Product Safety Commission guideline. It's not a law, but it is a standard."
Two Age Groups
The next consideration, says Kunz, "is to have an idea how many kids are going to be using it." Playgrounds are broken into two major types: those designed for ages 2 to 5 and those for ages 5 to 12. Typically, you don't mix the two, "though you might have a toddler area and an older-children area in another portion of the playground," says Darrell Wilson, co-owner of the playground construction specialist Playsites + Surfaces.
Adds Wilson: "You have to be age-appropriate. If you have a very young community, you don't want gigantic structures. Younger kids like motion — spinners, tot swings, spring riders. For older children, the hottest things these days are climbing structures, with ropes and nets. These have replaced monkey bars. Slides are still around," he notes, although most are plastic rather than metal and often offer curves and tubes rather than a straight incline. "Seesaws are not quite as popular as they used to be; they take up a lot of space and only two children can use them at a time. Space being at a premium in New York City, you want to have as many children as possible able to use that space."
How much should you expect to spend? What about noise? What house rules should you set? And are there new safety requirements? Watch for more on playgrounds later this month, or just pick up the September issue of Habitat.
Photo, rooftop playground at Sky View Parc, courtesy Helen Lee; click to enlarge
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