by Marlene Berlin
This past weekend I heard from a neighbor that Forest Hills playground was open, and it was packed with kids eager to try it out. So I walked over Tuesday morning to see for myself.
As excited as those kids were, they had nothing on me. I couldn’t wait to try out the adult exercise equipment.
I got on the first piece, similar to an elliptical, but found it provided no resistance. I looked for a place where I could adjust the resistance and found none. I then went to another piece on which you slide your feet back and forth and keep your arms stationary, and again no resistance and no place for adjusting. Then the footplate slipped out from underneath my foot.
It had not been bolted down properly – a real safety hazard. The third piece was for twisting your torso on a plate that went round in one direction and then another. I was stymied yet again by the lack of resistance and it did not seem to work properly. This, for me, is the new playground’s main attraction since my children are grown. I was disappointed.
While there, I ran into Alexandra Chalupa, the president of Friends of the Forest Hills Playground. She was already aware of the problems with the adult equipment and was including it in a punch list she was sending to Department of Parks and Recreation.
Ali was also concerned about the picnic tables and benches bolted in front of the new mini amphitheater, which was installed in place of the old covered picnic area. During the community input phase, residents had made it clear that a major reason for the amphitheater was to provide space for performances, but the tables as they’re currently situated leave little room. In June, the Department of Parks and Recreation posted a new design that showed three tables with benches in the performance area. It was unclear from this design whether they would take up all the performance space. Ali told me that the removal of the center table and benches would give them the space needed for the playground’s Halloween party on Sunday, October 26th, from 10 a.m. to noon.
I returned to the playground Tuesday afternoon to take some photos and to see how many children showed up after school. The place was buzzing with activity, with kids running, jumping, climbing, swinging, sliding and digging.
One little girl, about 5, was on one of the adult exercise machines. I thought about warning her that it wasn’t safe for her, but then held myself back. Although much too big for her, she was very adept at using it. I also knew my girls would have been doing exactly what she was doing – trying out absolutely everything.
As I left, I passed a father and son walking toward the playground. Well, Dad was walking. The little guy was sprinting. He couldn’t get there fast enough.
Even with the kinks, the new Forest Hills playground is a fabulous addition to the neighborhood. It will be even more so once DPR addresses Ali’s punch list.