I hate it when city resources are wasted on private enterprise. This was a halfway decent playground - nice big trees, old fashioned wooden equipment that reminded our child of a ship, and, crucially, a sign identifying it as an official NYC Parks Department playground. However, it’s attached to a charter school and has been fenced off into the school’s yard. The sign said it was closed to the public when the school was open, but indicated that it should be open the rest of the time. But when we went on a holiday, a man (maybe the school’s janitor? Not wearing a NYC Parks shirt) came out to tell us that actually the park was closed.
But it’s not a school day.
Yeah, that’s why it’s closed.
But the gate is wide open.
I opened it to take the garbage out, I’m going to close it now.
But school is closed today, why isn’t it open to the public like the sign says?
The park is closed!
So - is this a public park, or is the Parks Department funding a charter school’s private school yard? Tell us in the comments if you live nearby and know!
The wooden playground is nice to look at, but not particularly safe. The charter school that is supposed to keep it open to the public also keeps the gates locked even when school is not in session.
The Blake Hobbes playground is rather unique in the city. It's the first playground that was made primarily of wood, and it immediately brought back memories of my childhood playground in upstate New Jersey. But as soon our toddler started climbing on the equipment, I remembered how dangerous wooden equipment can be.
I also thought for sure this must have been a playground as I old as me, but it was actually just 8 years old. The wood hasn't aged all that well, and while it's pretty to look at, it's a far cry from the modern playgrounds being installed today.
The odd thing about this public park is it has been walled off by a charter school. It's not entirely uncommon for playgrounds to be gated during school hours, but it is unusual for shared spaces to be locked up when the school isn't in session. We had taken a journey to Pats's pizza in celebration of Italian American Heritage Day / Indigenous People's Day, a citywide school holiday (and according to the charter school's own calendar, the school was closed in celebration). The side gate was unlocked but the janitor came along to yell at us saying the playground was closed. Seems to me the DREAM Charter school isn't fulfilling it's end of the bargain and is hijacking this public park, even when school isn't in session.
Ultimately this wasn't a great playground. The plaza portion of the park is a nice bit of greenspace in East Harlem, but it's certainly not a destination park by any means. What it does do is remind you have private companies are able to swindle city taxpayers out of public resources.
Blake Hobbes was known as "the music man of East Harlem". The playground was given away to the DREAM Charter school, which renovated it in 2015. The playground and plaza, Pla-za, as the architectural firm refers to it, is intended to be open to the public whenever the school is not in session. It's not, dear reader. The charter school has turned this green oasis into another walled garden.