Although Parks generally inspected playgrounds as required, in many instances the agency didn’t fix problems, including rusted and broken equipment, even after they were flagged for repair.
“Parents shouldn’t have to worry about their children playing on
broken equipment or near rat holes, especially after Parks’ own
inspectors have already reported the hazards,” said Liu.
“In some cases, the Parks Department is inexplicably slow to give its
full attention to poor playground conditions and needs to better meet
its own guidelines for making badly needed repairs.”
The Parks Department randomly inspects 205 playgrounds every two weeks, and each site in the city is usually inspected twice a year. Inspection reports are forwarded to Parks staff for review and correction of unacceptable conditions.
Hazardous conditions such as protruding bolts, broken or damaged equipment or benches are supposed to be repaired within two to four weeks. Parks inspectors then revisit those playgrounds to verify whether the problems have been corrected.
Auditors from the Comptroller's Office inspected 107 playgrounds in all five boroughs in July 2011. At many locations, they found problems were still present months after Parks’ own inspections had brought them to light.
“In some cases, the Parks Department is inexplicably slow to give its full attention to poor playground conditions and needs to better meet its own guidelines for making badly needed repairs,” added Liu.
In other cases, the auditors found hazards that had not been included on the most recent
Parks inspection report.
In Brooklyn, auditors inspected 30 playgrounds in July 2011.
Among them was Hickman Playground on Veterans Avenue between East 66th and East 68th streets. A Parks inspection reported on April 1, 2011, that safety mats were no longer attached and uplifting, but auditors found the problem persisted 104 days later.
In Queens, auditors inspected 33 playgrounds in during the same month.
At Highland Park's Lower Highland Playground on Jamaica Avenue and Elton Street,
a Parks inspection report on March 21, 2011, reported that a section of the safety surface was missing. When auditors visited 113 days later, the safety mats were scattered, overturned, and missing.
In response to the audit, the Parks Department said it would “prioritize repairs depending on the severity of these conditions” and will make “the best effort to address outstanding items, which is dependent on existing resources and materials as well as the availability of manpower.”
However, the department disagreed over whether certain hazards were not corrected in a timely manner.