Our reconstruction of the Ruth and Arthur Smadbeck-Heckscher East Playground created a new play environment geared to pre-schoolers and rebuilt the plaza featuring the Group of Bears sculpture.
Built in 1991, this playground (originally known as East 79th Street Playground) was part of a project to improve the landscape southwest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It replaced the Levy Playground in 1956, which was just west of the current site and has since been restored as a landscape. Relocating the playground closer to the perimeter made it consistent with the rest of the Park’s playgrounds, which are designed to provide convenient access to surrounding neighborhoods and avoid disrupting the experience of larger interior landscapes.
The Ruth and Arthur Smadbeck-Heckscher East Playground is also colloquially known as Three Bears Playground, because of Paul Manship’s bronze sculpture Group of Bears just outside the playground entrance.
Our goal in rebuilding the playground was to make it better suited and more engaging for younger children, as well as better-integrated into the surrounding landscape. Our work included:
- Reconfiguring the playground’s footprint to create three interconnected, distinct play spaces enveloped by landscape
- Enhancing existing plantings surrounding the playground
- Introducing new play equipment and features, including custom sandboxes and an accessible sand table, a climber, a slide, balancers, and a water spray feature
- Reconstructing the plaza surrounding Group of Bears and the nearby path to be wheelchair accessible, have sufficient drainage, and provide more seating
- Restoring the ornamental Levy Gates between the plaza and the playground
- Modernizing the infrastructure that supports the playground and surrounding landscape, including water supply, irrigation, and storm drainage
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.
King Jagiello Monument Conservation
Our conservation work on the bronze King Jagiello monument focused on making necessary repairs to the statue’s internal mounting system and restoring the statue’s protective coating.
Obelisk ConservationThe Conservancy completed the most comprehensive conservation of the Egyptian Obelisk in its 3,500-year history, including cleaning its 2,112-square-foot surface with lasers and stabilizing it with adhesive products. The work was a collaborative effort with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and NYC Parks.
Belvedere Castle RestorationOur restoration of the Belvedere addressed the overall condition of its structures and terraces, modernized systems that support its preservation and use, and restored lost aspects of the historic design. A future phase of this project will include providing an accessible route to the Belvedere, one of the most heavily visited destinations in the Park.
Restoration of the RambleOur restoration of the Ramble was designed to renew the scenic character, enhance the habitat value, and improve the visitor experience of the urban woodland landscape at the heart of the Park’s historic design.