Robert Moses and the "Playscape"

James Trainor looks back at the history of New York's "adventure playgrounds" of the 1960s and 70s, tracing their origin back to the original Central Park dust-up between Robert Moses and local housewives.
June 30, 2012, 1pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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Trainor recalls the buzz and excitement of his youth in New York City, when new ideas in urban playground design had resulted in a number of fantastic "adventure playgrounds". The site of the very first, Trainor notes, was also the site of a famous battle between Robert Moses and local housewives:

"...a young mother taking her son to a small locally popular playground came across blueprints, idly left behind by a parks department engineer, detailing the imminent destruction of the playground and surrounding glen to make way for an expanded parking lot for the ritzy Tavern on the Green restaurant nearby. News spread fast, and within a day neighborhood mothers had mobilized to petition Moses. Moses responded two days later with hurricane fences and construction equipment. The "Battle of Central Park" was thus engaged, as newspapers chronicled a community rallying to defend its children's rights (and a playground that Moses himself had installed in the 1930s), and ran stark photographs of activists like Jacobs joining mothers and children facing off against bulldozers.

The majority of the substantial article documents the rise of the "playscape" in New York, a term coined by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg and architect Richard Dattner.

"Bold, geometric, and unapologetically monumental, the new playscapes were everything the dull and instantly outmoded playgrounds were not."

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Published on Friday, June 29, 2012 in CABINET
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