When I went to the most recent New York Coalition for Play meeting I got there early and spent a gorgeous hour or so mooching around Teardrop Park, before bumping into Penny Wilson (hello!) and heading inside.
It’s a fantastic little park, with well-considered areas for passing through, sitting, sunbathing and playing. There’s something for residents of all ages and abilities, and an air of glossy green possibility. Because an adult with a camera but no children looks creepy enough on a playground, I didn’t take any pictures with people in and the photos give a false impression of an under-used site. It’s true that before the meeting parts were very empty – even the slide and sand pit – but afterwards we walked back through and the place was heaving with Mums, nannies and carers and a number of toddlers and infants, and the back lawn was packed with sunbathers on their lunchbreaks. Cleverly, this section was divided by the rest by tall hedges.
In fact, the whole park was a series of locations connected by curving paths and deep archways, with smaller routes cut between hedges. These were planned-for, but had been left slightly overgrown to give the sense of discovery and adventure. Because of the nature of the site, and the limitations of my phone, the images give the barest sense of the spaces, which have a way of pinching at the thresholds and then opening out in unexpected ways.
The sun-bathing lawn, with context of the surrounding highrises:
A bit of chalky play-evidence:
An example of the seating along the paths – there was lots of it around, including benches and broad stone walls, and even an amphitheatre area with deep and generous seats.
And opposite it, a monumental-feeling stone wall, complete with dribbling water:
One of the “hidden” pathways, curving along the lawn and up a shallow hill:
And a hefty felled tree for clambering, scrambling or hiding:
One side of the Stonehenge-esque doorway between sections:
One of the multiple sand areas, this one tucked away and on a higher level than the rest of the park:
And another, this time from the amphitheatre-style seating and facing the tall slide:
And the last one, this one separate again and fenced-off for the littles. Note the water feature, sadly not turned on during my visit as it wasn’t quite hot enough yet.
It was spectacular to see so much thought (and most definitely money) go into a natural playspace, especially one right in the middle of the city. I’ve been in situations before, advocating for sand and water features in public parks, and it can be an uphill battle. Fears about safety (needles in the sand! diseases in the water!) can prevent many children from enjoying such simple play opportunities as mixing sand and water on a hot day or splashing one another.
The inclusion of so many massive boulders, the felled and standing trees, the stone wall and archway, all gave the impression of a place both ancient and new, semi-forgotten and well-cared for, with an impressive monumentality but a scrupulous attention to detail. It was so clean I was shocked, but I think if a child wanted to gather bits of leaves for crowns or potions from the pathways they could.
All in all, it seemed like a remarkable place for meeting and playing, for continual rediscovering, for dreaming and intrepid exploring, for story-telling under a green canopy, surrounded by the sounds of running water.