By Susan Steinberg
President of the ST-PCV Tenants Association
About 35 Stuyvesant Town tenants attended a town hall on Monday night focusing on the reimagined Playground 1. Hosted by Rick Hayduk, general manager of StuyTown Property Services, assisted by Wes Richards, chief landscape designer and Kevin Wyatt, master arborist, the event took place at the community center.
Hayduk reviewed the need for improvements, including unsafe asphalt requiring resurfacing, parapet walls that were collapsing and trees in various states of decay. Construction work has already begun on rebuilding the parapets, to the chagrin of the residents living around the playground, well represented at the meeting, who are trying to cope with the drilling. The worst of the noise is expected to be over in two weeks. When completed, the playground will consist of two major areas, an AstroTurf section (about one third of the total area) and a resurfaced asphalt area (two thirds) allowing for roller hockey and T-ball. A net will separate the two areas. The decaying trees will be replaced by Princeton Elms 22 feet high. These grow 4-6.5 feet a year and produce food for squirrels. The design showed 28 benches. The playground is envisioned as serving children ages 12 and under.
Several residents challenged the project. They said playground as it existed was one playground where there was no “theme,” no organized play, no schedules and where residents could site and enjoy quiet time. One resident said she had specifically moved to a building overlooking that playground because it was quiet.
At that juncture, Mark S. Levine, RA, resident and registered architect, produced his design for an alternate look. Strikingly, the plan showed a significant green buffer area where large shrubs around the playground dampened the impact of noise and protected tenants sitting on benches from stray missiles. He said such a green buffer reaps tax benefits to the landlord. His design also called for tennis courts instead of some of the other types of activities since he felt this would be a plus for the community.
Kevin Farrelly, chair of the Tenants Association, asked whether fee-based organized activity would be schedule to the exclusion of tenants. Hayduk said he thought the use would be 20 percent organized and 80 percent unstructured and that it wouldn’t be fee-based. While the Little League and the roller hockey used the playground, others would not be able to use those areas, but this would not be allowed to go on all day.
(Note: Hayduk later clarified to Town & Village that while there were no plans to expand fee-based activities, the playground would be used by Top Soccer as they currently use other playgrounds for a fee and the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, which charges membership dues although there is no fee paid to the property. He added that during organized play parts of the playground will not be available for residents to play upon demand. For example, roller hockey’s time will be set such that other residents cannot use the hard-surfaced playground at the same time.)
Anne Greenberg, TA vice president, asked whether every playground will be themed and for profit. Hayduk said management is looking to improve the playgrounds for the highest and best use in accordance with the needs of the community.
That sparked some tenants to remark that they could use more senior-based activities, and a challenge as to why roller hockey got such attention without discussion with the tenants who lived around the playground. Much discussion ensued as to how significant hockey was to the community – but “kid” hockey seems to have morphed into adult hockey.
Sherry Kirschenbaum, a TA board member, asked about control of the playground. Who will determine whether only residents are allowed, and whether the areas will be appropriately used (no picnics on the AstroTurf). In response, management said there will be key card access and someone from the recreation department to monitor.
One tenant picked up on the statement Hayduk made about the specs for the sports areas having been created in synch with the Department of Parks’ standards, and questioned the safety of AstroTurf. She said the Department of Parks no longer used it. Hayduk said they are working with a company called play sites that provides non-carcinogenic synthetic turf.
The recent cutting down of trees around the playground also came under fire. Wyatt explained that excessive sunlight from global warming, soil acidity and age contributed to decay. He said thinning canopy and lack of a trees ability to produce necessary nutrients from greatly diminished photosynthesis leaves produce created hollows inside. These hollows became burrows for squirrels, whose waste contributed to further decay. One tenant challenged the decay, indicating that she had examined the stumps of trees cut down and out of 20 that were cut down around the fitness playground, only one looked truly decayed.
At the end of the meeting, Hayduk said they would revisit use of Playground 1 and send a letter to impacted tenants. He also said there would be more town halls for changes of significance.
Note: Tenants who spoke at the town hall didn’t identify themselves, so Steinberg has only named the TA members who were present.
Hayduk later told Town & Village that management is considering an aspect of Levine’s design and also said SPS would review residents’ comments and suggestions, produce a draft of those comments with a response and distribute those comments and then set up one more town hall. Hayduk also remarked on the topic of trees, to say the plan to replace the decayed oaks with Princeton Elms has been well received.
“We greatly appreciate the input from the residents and expect the Sports Playground to be a great addition to the recreational offerings in Stuyvesant Town,” Hayduk said.
Correction: When this story ran in T&V’s print version on May 17, we regrettably misspelled the name of an architect who drew up an alternative plan for the playground. He was identified as Mark Levin, but his name is Mark S. Levine. Additionally, Levine is not a landscape architect as was specified in the story but is a registered architect who submitted this landscape design for consideration.