Playground dome too hot to handle

By Albert Amateau

The hot new playground at Union Square Park proved too hot for comfort last week when the Department of Parks and Recreation closed the popular 7-foot-tall steel climbing dome.

The feature that brought older children to the playground from all over Manhattan became too hot in the sun some days in April.

Parks closed a similar dome in Brooklyn Bridge Park during an early-April heat wave but the department did not cordon off the dome in the Union Square playground until Fri., May 21. Signs around the dome warned that it would be closed when the temperature called for it. The dome was reopened Sun., May 30, and the Parks Department said this week that it would erect a shade structure for the dome.

“We’re experimenting with lots of new play elements and we’ll be correcting them if they don’t work properly,” a Parks spokesperson said.

The 15,000-square-foot playground completed at the end of last year has had other safety problems. A spinning dish was removed in April because it rotated too fast.

Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates and a frequent critic of the redesign of the north end of Union Square Park, said children have been falling over backward on the slide’s steep steps.

“We’ve been saying this to the Parks Department for months, they don’t listen,” Croft said. “It’s crazy that playground equipment doesn’t have to be tested.”

Michael Van Valkenburgh, the firm that designed the Brooklyn Bridge Park playground — and also the Hudson River Park’s Chelsea Cove segment, which opened last weekend — designed the $3.8 million Union Square Park playground.