Linden Park

Parks & Recreation And The Walt Disney Company Launch Playground Pilot Program

Tuesday, July 24, 2007
No. 98

On Tuesday, July 17, Parks & Recreation, with the support of the Walt Disney Company, launched a pilot program to introduce moveable elements such as sand, water and "loose parts" in 10 existing playgrounds across New York City. The pilot program is part of a movement to rethink the current design of City playgrounds and play equipment to allow children greater interaction with their play environment. The Walt Disney Company is sponsoring the pilot program with both financial support and Disney VoluntEAR employee participation.

"As we work to restore and expand the City’s playgrounds and recreation programs, we are also reshaping how New York City’s children play, enhancing their physical, social, and emotional development," said Commissioner Benepe. "Movable parts in our playgrounds will allow children’s play to be bounded only by their imagination, and we hope this pilot program will successfully expand into even more playgrounds throughout the city. A collaboration with the Walt Disney Company and architects David Rockwell and others is helping New York City stay on the cutting edge of new design and programming for playgrounds and parks."

This new strategy provides children with "loose parts" and movable objects to allow them to choose and direct their play. The model is based on the play theory that a child’s capacity for positive development is enhanced if he or she is given access to the broadest range of environments. Currently, New York City’s playgrounds predominantly feature large, stationary structures such as jungle gyms, slides, seesaws, merry-go-rounds and swings. While these structures provide motor benefits, which develop the strength, flexibility, and coordination in children, they are less conducive to developing the child’s psychological growth.

The playgrounds will also be staffed by "play workers," to facilitate activity and provide an additional level of safety. Parks currently operates a Summer Playground Associate Program at over 120 playgrounds throughout the City. Playground Associates are recreation workers who provide structured recreation, sports, arts & crafts, board games, and special events during eight-hour shifts five days per week. For the pilot program, Parks has trained 10 of its current Playground Associates to work and staff the redeveloped playgrounds.

The elements in these sites are akin to those conceived for Imagination Playground, designed by The Rockwell Group, in Lower Manhattan. When completed, Imagination Playground will contain features children can manipulate, such as sand or water, as well as objects and toys. The playground’s "free play" initiative is designed to enhance the cognitive skills of children within an unstructured play environment and make each visit to the playground unique. Imagination Playground is scheduled to open in 2008.


About the Walt Disney Company

Disney brightens the lives of children in need around the world through global outreach programs, local community initiatives and the Disney VoluntEARS program. Last year, Disney donated more than $170 million in cash and in-kind support to various charities around the world. Disney VoluntEARS contributed more than 485,000 hours of service and the company drew upon its unique magic to make wishes come true for children and families. The Disney VoluntEARS program provides opportunities for Disney employees to contribute their time and expertise towards making a positive impact in the communities they serve while furthering the traditions and ideals of The Walt Disney Company. For more information on Disney’s outreach efforts, please visit

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