New playground opening at The Battery

A new playground designed by Tribecan Laura Starr and her team at Starr Whitehouse will open next Thursday afternoon, Dec. 16, at the foot of the island. The “playscape” — a full acre of it — replaces the one that was there for decades.

As evidence that time flies whether you want it to or not: talking to Laura and her team was my very last in person interview before the lockdown, on March 12; I’ve been monitoring the site all this time and never got to writing it and now, here we are with a completed project. (See a bit of the progression below.)

The playground has lots of ways to get up high — Laura had her own (now grown) daughter in mind, thinking of how she could never get her off the rocks in Central Park. The designers wanted to achieve something similar: height that was achieved in a “natural” way, not via a structure.

“Kids love to climb, and they love to play king of the mountain,” Laura said. “And when they get to the top they will have spectacular views to the statue and the harbor.”

Given it’s proximity to the water, the playground was built to weather storm water (hence the concrete) with low and wet zones as part of the design. There’s a bluff, a bowl, a puppet theater, treehouses, water play area, sand play, and kids with mobility challenges have full access. A swale, or constructed stream, runs through the space, separating the play areas in a natural way.

The granite slides come down from the top of the bluff, and have “scrambles” on either side with different levels of challenge — “It gives them some level of independence and allows kids to be involved with what the other kids are doing” designer Jeffrey Poor said. “It embodies the coolest thing about slides — it makes a circuit.” And as part of a crafty maintenance plan, Laura noted: the kids’ little bums will polish the granite over time.