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|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Hangout-NYLXS] Death of the Sea Saw
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From: Ruben Safir
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2016 02:57:17 -0500
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Subject: [Hangout-NYLXS] Death of the Sea Saw
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The Downward Slide of the Seesaw
By SHARON OTTERMANDEC. 11, 2016
Children playing on a seesaw in the River Run Playground in Riverside
Park in Manhattan in November.
The two young brothers seesawed in Riverside Park recently, testing and
tormenting each other, absorbed in a playground ritual familiar to
generations of children.
What they did not know was that they were in one of the last places in
New York City where they could seesaw. Once ubiquitous in the city=E2=80=99s
hundreds of public playgrounds, as they were around the country, the
seesaws adults remember have largely vanished from the city and much of
the nation because of safety concerns and changing tastes.
The old wooden seesaws that pivot on a central fulcrum have survived in
only one city park, park officials believe =E2=80=94 the Classic Playground=
Riverside Park at West 74th Street. And just north of there, at River
Run Playground at West 83rd Street, are three metal fulcrum seesaws that
were installed at the community=E2=80=99s request in the 1990s. They are lo=
and safer, rising only 32 inches off the rubber play mat at the highest
The history of New York City playgrounds is intertwined with the seesaw.
Charity associations gave seesaw demonstrations when playgrounds were
introduced at the turn of the 20th century. They were standard fixtures
in the more than 600 playgrounds constructed between 1934 and 1960 under
the direction of Robert Moses, along with monkey bars, sandboxes and
slides, according to the city parks department.
But federal safety guidelines for playgrounds, which were created in
1981, began to limit their use. The older seesaws were wooden planks
that often hit asphalt directly, leading to occasional tailbone and
spinal injuries, falls and pinched fingers, not to mention splinters.
Children could slam each other by dismounting suddenly. Playgrounds that
retained old seesaws were exposed to lawsuits.
Current federal guidelines state that fulcrum seesaws can be installed
safely if car tires are embedded under the seats and adequate space is
left around them in case of a fall. But they are not recommended for
toddlers or preschoolers, and they take up a lot of space. So the
reaction to the guidelines in New York City, and many other places, was
just to phase seesaws out.
An old wooden seesaw =E2=80=94 a long board that pivots on a fulcrum =E2=80=
=94 at the
Classic Playground in Riverside Park.
In 2000, 55 percent of playgrounds around the nation had a seesaw,
according to the National Program for Playground Safety, which makes
estimates based on visits to about 3,000 parks. By 2004, that number was
11 percent. Seesaws were even less popular in schoolyards, declining
from 13 percent in 2000 to 7 percent in 2004, the last year for which
data was available.
As a result, relatively few playground injuries are now attributable to
seesaws. According to data collected by the United States Consumer
Product Safety Commission, which sets the safety standards, the top
three pieces of equipment associated with emergency room visits between
2009 and 2014 were monkey bars, swings and slides. Only 2 percent of
injuries were from teeter-totters.
Yet the seesaw remains paramount in the public consciousness, along with
swings and slides, as a playground staple. The universal sign for a
playground =E2=80=94 the image on a road sign warning that a playground is =
=E2=80=94 is usually of two stick figures on a seesaw. And seesaws have ret=
Among them were parents watching their children play at River Run
Playground recently. The three seesaws were in heavy use =E2=80=94 parents
balanced toddlers on the seats, older children whooshed each other
skyward, and one father tried to stand in the middle of the seesaw and
=E2=80=9CWe=E2=80=99re child-proofing childhood,=E2=80=9D said Milanee Kapa=
dia, when told that
these seesaws were among the last in the city. One of her 4-year-old
twins has special needs, and the seesaw, which requires cooperation and
coordination, is just the kind of equipment her therapists recommend. So
she comes regularly. =E2=80=9COne little fall or a tooth broken and the next
thing you know they are out,=E2=80=9D she said.
Marissa Dennis watched as her boys Kale, 8, and Asher, 6, slipped off
the seesaw and banged each other down as hard as they could. She was
nervous, but neither boy was hurt, because the seesaw ends hit tires
embedded in the soft play mat.
A seesaw at Blackwell playground on Roosevelt Island has a more modern
=E2=80=9CI think we have to take the kids out a little bit from the safety
bubble,=E2=80=9D she said, placing her 2-year-old daughter, Sadie, on a see=
Traditional seesaws have other supporters, including occupational and
physical therapists, who have noted with concern the increasing number
of children who have problems regulating themselves emotionally and
physically as childhood becomes more sedentary.
=E2=80=9CTo adults, seesaws might look like an accident waiting to happen,=
Lauren Drobnjak, a physical therapist in Cleveland and co-author of the
book =E2=80=9CSensory Processing 101.=E2=80=9D But =E2=80=9Cby rapidly movi=
ng the child through
vertical space,=E2=80=9D she said, seesaws provide input to a child=E2=80=
=E2=80=94 or balance regulation =E2=80=94 system =E2=80=9Cin a way that no =
equipment can.=E2=80=9D And children learn strength and coordination when t=
hit the ground and push themselves back up.
=E2=80=9CA seemingly simple plaything actually provides so many important
sensory experiences for kids,=E2=80=9D she said.
In some places, the seesaw has not gone out of style. A spokesman for
the best-known manufacturer of a metal traditional-style seesaw,
SportsPlay, based in St. Louis, said that the company still sells =E2=80=9C=
of seesaws.=E2=80=9D AAA State of Play, a playground equipment supplier in
Greenfield, Ind., said that seesaws remained popular with schools, parks
and homeowner associations in smaller towns and cities.
=E2=80=9CWe actually sold some to a group of people who were in their early
70s,=E2=80=9D Nancy Breedlove, one of the owners of AAA State of Play, said.
=E2=80=9CAnd I said, =E2=80=98Oh, is this for your grandkids?=E2=80=99 And =
she said, =E2=80=98No, we
like to go out there and relive our youth and have cocktails.=E2=80=99=E2=
Seesaws in Central Park in 1953.
In New York City, the old fulcrum seesaws were replaced over time by
newer styles of equipment, like multilevel structures that integrate
slides and climbing walls.
The main reason was safety. =E2=80=9CNew York City Parks has not installed
seesaws for at least 30 years due to safety concerns,=E2=80=9D said a spoke=
But there were exceptions. One was in River Run Playground, which was
able to install the metal seesaws in a 1990s renovation because the
community requested it, said Nancy Prince, deputy chief for design at
the city parks department.
And there have been attempts at more futuristic versions of the seesaw
over the decades, such as a standing seesaw at Ciccarone Park in the
Bronx that was installed in 2007 but has since broken, and a
crescent-shaped modern version at Melrose Playground in the Bronx that
remains in use.
Another reason seesaws remain rare is that equipment that moves is very
hard to maintain in crowded city parks, Ms. Prince said.
But the seesaw=E2=80=99s fortunes may be on the rise.
Last month, Central Park unveiled its first take on the seesaw in
decades =E2=80=94 something called a spring rider seesaw =E2=80=94 at a new=
playground on West 84th Street. At its center are two large springs,
which means children cannot plunk each other to the ground. Other city
playgrounds have experimented with spring rockers, which move up and
Lane Addonizio, who plans playgrounds for the Central Park Conservancy,
said she believed the return of an old-fashioned fulcrum seesaw might
not be far behind.
=E2=80=9CThe more we live with the safety standards, the more you see people
kind of innovating to bring back types of experiences that maybe for a
while you weren=E2=80=99t seeing,=E2=80=9D she said. =E2=80=9CThere=E2=80=
=99s no reason to think we
won=E2=80=99t have traditional seesaws in the park at some point.=E2=80=9D
We=E2=80=99re interested in your feedback on this page. Tell us what you th=
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