sharp rise in playground injury claims News

| 06 Mar 2015 | 12:36

Playgrounds on the Upper West Side aren’t all fun and games.

A new report from Comptroller Scott Stringer shows that playground-related personal injury claims have risen sharply over the past decade, including on the Upper West Side, even though the number of kids in the city over the same period has dropped.

Stringer’s report tracks 577 claims against the city for playground injuries -- about one a week over the past decade. Annual claims have rosen 53% over the last 10 fiscal years -- from a low of 45 in 2005 to a high of 69 in 2014. Most of those claims were settled, at a cost to the city of about $20.6 million.

Causes for injuries to kids include defective or broken surfaces, including several claims where children burned their feet on matting in summer months; improper playground design; insufficient maintenance of equipment, including swings and slides; and protruding nails or other debris.

In his report, Stringer urges the Parks Department to use the data to to fix problem areas. As an example, the report states that in 2013, at least five children suffered broken legs while playing on the same swing at Slope Park in Brooklyn. That swing apparently had been installed too close to the ground, and was ultimately removed by the city. But if the data was more closely tracked, some of the injuries could have been prevented. “By analyzing claims in real time, we can identify potential weaknesses in our city’s playgrounds and fix problems before children are injured and taxpayers are held liable,” he wrote.

On the Upper West Side, a number of local playgrounds have resulted in injury claims against the city, including Tecumseh Playground and Mariner’s Gate.

Stringer’s report sees little progress from the Parks Department. He notes that in the first four months of the current fiscal year, the percentage of play equipment rated as “acceptable” fell from 93% to 91% in the same period a year ago, and the percentage of safety surfaces also fell.

Stringer blames the drop on what he calls the “poor record” of the Parks Department in completing capital projects on schedule. “It is imperative that the Parks Department redouble its efforts to finish capital projects -- including modernizing the city’s playgrounds -- on time,” he writes.

In a statement, the Parks Department said it was reviewing Stringer’s report. “The safety of our children is our number one priority for our world-class playgrounds, and we continue to look for ways to improve our already high standards of safe design.”