East 72nd Street Playground Reconstruction

Reconstruction of the East 72nd Street Playground enhanced accessibility, updated the adventure-style play elements, and further integrated the playground into the surrounding landscape.

The East 72nd Street Playground was built in 1936. It was rebuilt in 1970, according to a design by architect Richard Dattner. The playground was one of several in the Park that were rebuilt in the adventure style in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Adventure-style playgrounds feature interconnected play structures that encourage exploration and imaginative play. The Conservancy later rehabilitated the playground in the late 1990s to meet national standards for playground safety and improve the Park based on feedback from its users.

Our most recent reconstruction, which was completed in 2015, aimed to honor the spirit of the existing design while modernizing it for current-day use. In an effort to integrate the playground more effectively into the landscape, we removed the fence and replaced it with a low seat wall. This wall mirrors the outer edge of the play zone. Benches are staggered along the wall to provide seating, interspersed with openings that enhance views out toward the landscape. A lightweight mesh fence meanders through the landscape plantings to ensure that the play environment is contained.

Playground before and after reconstruction

Work on the interior of the playground included:

  • Modifying the water spray feature and interconnected play structure to increase their play value and accessibility, and introducing water spray to the elevated portion of the play structure
  • Redesigning the central play zone
  • Expanding the swing area to accommodate strap swings for older children
  • Replacing most of the sand with sand-toned safety-surface carpet, which is accessible
  • Constructing a sand table in a corner of the sand-surfaced area to provide the opportunity for accessible sand play
  • Replacing the net climber with a pole climber connected to the pyramid climber, a style choice that is reminiscent of equipment in the original Dattner design

This project is part of the Conservancy’s effort to guide the continued stewardship of Central Park’s 21 playgrounds, as outlined in Plan for Play: A Framework for Rebuilding and Managing Central Park’s Playgrounds.

Sun-dappled light fills the playground

Playground at street level after reconstruction

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