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Photo courtesy Office of Comptroller Scott M. Stringer

The new audit not only reveals the hazardous conditions of NYCHA playgrounds, but it also shows that NYCHA has inadequate control over its inspection process and does not follow its own policies

Photo courtesy Office of Comptroller Scott M. Stringer

Playgrounds are meant to provide recreation opportunities and shared community space for families – and this should not be different for NYCHAs 400,000 residents and 100,000 children. Yet, a new audit released by NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer on Wednesday states that the New York City Housing Authority has failed to properly maintain hundreds of playgrounds, potentially putting tens of thousands of children at risk.

“As a parent, I’m shocked. As comptroller, I’m outraged,” said Stringer. “Our kids face lead, mold and broken heating inside their apartments. But when they walk outside, they have play spaces that should break adults’ hearts, because they put children in jeopardy. Jagged metal edges, broken slides, decrepit structures – this is what the government is providing for our kids.”

In its ninth NYCHA audit since 2014, the comptroller’s office inspected all 788 NYCHA-maintained playgrounds and found that 70 percent presented unsatisfactory and often hazardous conditions, such as missing and broken play equipment, some with exposed jagged edges, and loose and deteriorated safety surfacing, tripping hazards, debris and unkempt vegetation. The comptroller’s audit also reveals that NYCHA’s own inspection reports for 25 sampled developments were either false, inaccurate or missing altogether.

Photo courtesy Office of Comptroller Scott M. Stringer

NYCHA is not only responsible for maintaining each development’s playgrounds and other exterior areas but also required to enter any inspection results into their electronic system for tracking maintenance and physical repair work. According to the comptroller’s audit, “NYCHA’s playground-maintenance is at best inconsistent and at worst demonstrates outright neglect of those community spaces.”

The report concludes that NYCHA has inadequate control over its playground inspection process and does not follow its own policies. Yet, without documentation of problems in NYCHA’s maintenance and repair system, there is no centrally-accessible written record of dangerous conditions and therefore no assurance that maintenance staff follows up to correct problems.

In response to the new findings, Stringer is calling on NYCHA to immediately inspect all 788 playgrounds, remedy all hazardous conditions and overhaul its playground inspection regimen to ensure all reports are accurate and that all inspections are completed monthly, as required. The comptroller also requests that NYCHA’s senior management evaluates and addresses the causes of the failures that allowed substandard and hazardous conditions in NYCHA playgrounds to go unaddressed.

“All children – whether they live in public housing or in luxury condos – deserve to play in a safe space that encourages their growth. While NYCHA has many needs, children in public housing deserve more,” said Stringer. “Just when we should be helping kids achieve their dreams, NYCHA is making their play spaces a nightmare. That’s why I’m calling on NYCHA to conduct a top-to-bottom review of each playground it’s required to keep safe for our kids.”

The full audit is available here.

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