Incorporating Safety into Play Time Recreational Playgrounds in Co-ops, Condos and HOAs

Children's Playroom at The Visionaire, Stedila Design

One universal truth on which we all can agree is that kids like to play. They love little more than getting together and having a bang-up good time. And in almost any cooperative, condominium or homeowners’ association, there is likely to be a gaggle of youths who need to burn off some energy. A board is left with the choice between letting this roving band of rapscallions traverse the property unchecked, wreaking havoc on carefully-manicured lawns, or providing a designated place for kids to gather and enjoy some fresh air. Should said board wisely adopt the latter strategy, there’s a name for this type of consolidated entertainment structure, what we call: a playground.

Clearly, the imperative when housing a playground on a condo or co-op premises is safety. There may also ensue shifting community dynamics or potential lawsuits should a child get hurt. Thus every precaution must be taken to prevent that from happening. So what’s new in playground safety? What materials are being adapted into the works? Are kids playing differently than they were, say, a decade ago? 

The Legal Brief

Unlike smaller cities with vast suburban enclaves wherein kids can frolic among the trees and the greenery, New York City is famous for being The Big Apple, a town that celebrates fruit trees in name only, as it actually features a ton of giant buildings. Outdoor space amid condominium or co-op communities is at a premium, and boards often have to get inventive in order to carve out a place in which children can recreate. The laws governing play spaces have to be accordingly tight in order to ensure that everyone conducts themselves in a safe fashion, and boards are advised to consult with trained professionals before entering into any binding contract with a playground manufacturer, lest they overlook an important safety code.

Murray Hill’s Waterside Plaza is one facility that has a state-of-the-art outdoor playground. However, buildings like Emerald Green, 320 West 38th Street; the Regent at 45 West 60th Street; Ariel West at 245 West 99th Street; the Brompton at 205 East 85th Street; One Brooklyn Bridge Park at 360 Furman Street; and the Dillon at 425 West 53rd Street, are but some of the developments that offer plush indoor children’s playrooms, which in Manhattan seems to be more the norm.

One of the seemingly most insane things that anyone does—and they actually do this—is put playgrounds on the roofs of buildings. But, when space is, again, at a premium, a board does what it can. "If you're placing a playground on a building roof, you have issues regarding ingress and egress, as well as fencing, that you must address," explains Jack Lepper, a partner with the law firm of Kagan Lubic Lepper Finkelstein & Gold, LLC. "There are regulations overseeing fence height, distance between playground and fence, etc. It's in a board's best interest to contact an architectural or engineering consultant to assure that plans are prepared and filed in accordance with the local requirements."

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