Urban was the Engineer of Record for restoring and upgrading the Rockefeller Playground to current playground safety standards and compliance with the America Disability Act.
The Rockefeller Playground – which was originally constructed 30 years ago – is a beloved feature within Battery Park City and is heavily used by the local children and fondly remembered by previous generations of the surrounding residents. The recreational area’s features were outdated and no longer met current recommended standards. Urban was responsible for restoring and upgrading the one-acre public space to current playground safety standards and compliance with the America Disability Act (ADA).
The function and location of the playground equipment could not change because the community wanted the long-standing playground preserved. In order to achieve this preservation, all the equipment was replaced “in kind,” including configuration, dimensions, and materials. Surveys of the existing equipment were performed to document the original installation. These surveys used scanning imaging to record the “in kind” arrangement. This information was used by the playground equipment fabricator to replicate the equipment and construct the elements within an off-site fabrication shop. The pieces were then disassembled and shipped to the job site, where the construction crews assembled them.
The application of ADA accessibility guidelines was applied to this outdoor facility. It wasn’t a building with the typical egress considerations; instead it involved analysis and modification in an open-air setting of barriers such as clearances, slopes, and other obstacles. Analyzing equity within this non-standard environment was a “first” for the design team. The firm learned which elements violated full inclusion, how to modify them so all could have access, while still having fun safely. The 1990 ADA Standard for Accessible Design is not in the library of many modern engineering firms. This project revealed the need for engineers to know what standards apply to protecting the public properly and within the law.
Equity for all children was incorporated into the design of this playground by upgrading accessibility to ADA recommended standards. Elevated equipment balanced with ground level equipment has led to a fair equitable experience for all children. The accommodations to replicate the existing design into the new safer and more accessible design showed a commitment stakeholders and respect for all potential users.
This project presented the designers with the challenge of preserving a 50-year-old facility according to updated laws and standards. The work included upgrades to current ADA standards; new play surface for safe for children; and maintaining the configuration and material of the equipment, which was a prime objective of the client and stakeholders given to the designers.
The Battery Park City Authority was extremely pleased with the final outcome of the project, including the quality of the materials, workmanship, and respect for history. The playground’s opening was a long awaited and much anticipated event – having been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic – so it was critical that stakeholder satisfaction was achieved. This public facility is now enhancing the living experience for residents and visitors to a very special place in Lower Manhattan.