City proposes reconfiguring 2 playgrounds as part of East Side flood protection plan

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Asser Levy Playground (pictured) and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground will be impacted by the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. (Photo courtesy of Parks Department)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The city has been exploring options to redesign Asser Levy Playground and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground, since both will be affected by the construction of flood protection along the East Side of Manhattan from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street.

Earlier in the month, representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency discussed the proposals at a community meeting held at Washington Irving High School.

Carrie Grassi, the deputy director of planning for the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, mentioned how the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will run adjacent to both parks and construction will disturb activities there.

However, since the city is only in the concept design stage with the project, Grassi said that decisions for all aspects aren’t necessarily final yet. One such instance is the placement of the floodwall as it approaches the Asser Levy Playground. One configuration has the wall bordering the park along the FDR Drive, turning along East 25th Street and connecting with the floodwall that the VA Hospital is working on.

“But some feel that would be too imposing,” Grassi said.

She explained that another option would be to have the wall cut across to Asser Levy Place just above East 23rd Street in between the park and the recreation center, which would keep the park more open, but this would mean there’s no protection directly around the playground, leaving it vulnerable.

“This is all an exercise in trade-offs,” Grassi said of the project.

The city is working with the Parks Department as well as Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects to come up with ways to integrate the parks into the project or to provide improvements if necessary.

“We want to think about the programs that are in those parks and whether we want to leave them the way they are or make changes,” said Alyssa Cobb Konon, assistant commissioner for Planning and Parklands for the Parks Department. “For these two parks in particular there will likely be flood walls along the side, so we wanted to get input on what those parks will look like in the future.”

Architect Molly Bourne said that both Murphy’s Brother’s and Asser Levy haven’t been updated in a while and could use “freshening up” but she also offered changes to the parks based on data collected about usage of the spaces.

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Murphy’s Brother’s Playground (Photo courtesy of Parks Department)

She said that one possible reconfiguration for Murphy’s Brother’s would move the playground element to the center of the park, which would move the baseball diamonds to opposite ends of the space.

But Jeff Ourvan, president of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, said that he had some concerns about moving the baseball fields around.

“It looks like some of the dimensions reduce the footprint of the fields,” he said. “A lot of five to eight-year-olds use this park. The fields are already kind of small and if they become even smaller it will have negative impact on the programming.”

Other suggestions for reconfiguring Asser Levy included a climbing wall, a water spray feature and picnicking area.

The ESCR project has received $335 million in federal funding from Housing and Urban Development and Grassi said that if any improvements are made to the parks, this funding will cover it, regardless of whether or not it is related to flood protection.

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