Reconstruction of Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground

Our reconstruction of the Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground incorporated new toddler-friendly play experiences that feature climbing, swinging, and sand play; introduced a new water feature; and created an ADA-accessible path to the playground.

The original playground was constructed in 1956 as the result of a highly publicized conflict, known as the “Battle of Central Park,” between Upper West Side neighborhood parents and the administration of the Parks Department under Commissioner Robert Moses. The administration planned to build a parking lot for Tavern on the Green in this landscape (adjacent to another playground, now known as Adventure Playground), but families protested the project. Although the Parks Department began construction, protests and an eventual lawsuit defeated the project. With the site already altered, the Parks Department instead built a new playground in the square footage of the parking lot.

The resulting playground was smaller and shaped differently than a typical playground in the Park. It came to be known as “Tots Playground” in 1968 when architect Richard Dattner redesigned it to serve the Park’s youngest visitors. In 1987, the Conservancy renovated the playground and installed new equipment, safety surfacing, and drainage infrastructure.

The goals of our recent reconstruction were to improve the playground’s relationship with the Park and with Adventure Playground, and to enhance the play experience for the playground’s youngest visitors.

The project included:

  • Modifying the playground’s footprint from a square to a circular shape, which helps the playground to recede from view when observed from the Park
  • Adding a variety of new play opportunities including climbing, swinging, and sand play through traditional play equipment and contoured landforms scaled to younger preschoolers.
  • Introducing a user-activated water feature, supported by new water and drainage infrastructure
  • Adding ADA-accessible paths to and from the playground from the West Drive and the Park perimeter

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.

Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground Before and After Reconstruction

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