Thousands of children at risk at dangerous playgrounds in NYCHA housing, new report says

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VINEGAR HILL, Brooklyn — NYCHA is putting the more than 100,000 children that live in its facilities at risk, according to a new report by the city’s top investigator.

Playgrounds at a majority of the housing authority’s properties have unsafe conditions and NYCHA has neglected them or falsified reports about them, according to the audit from City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office. The report detailed jagged pieces of metal sticking out of playground slides, broken and rusted parts of jungle gyms protruding onto areas where children climb and frolic, as well as metal and wood pieces of playground equipment rigged together, after having fallen apart. The list went on and on.

There were unsafe conditions at about 70 percent of the housing agency’s 788 playgrounds, the report found. In some of those cases, NYCHA had reported that the playgrounds were actually safe, when they were not.

“I have no problem calling them bogus inspection reports,” Stringer said at a late Wednesday morning news conference.

Some public housing residents told PIX11 News that they weren’t surprised to learn the audit’s results.

“Someone always has to get involved to push them to get them to do what they’re supposed to do,” Lydia Guzman said about NYCHA, which is her landlord at Brooklyn’s Red Hook Houses.

Mekhi Smith, another resident, reacted just as strongly.

“It’s crazy that it takes [NYCHA] so long to find out” about problems on playgrounds, “and it takes someone else to tell [them] that.”

He’d responded to conditions at one playground that were noted in the comptroller’s office audit. It found that a rusted metal anchor to a long-removed trash can was affixed to the ground of a Red Hook Houses jungle gym. NYCHA responded to the situation, which the comptroller’s office had brought to NYCHA’s attention months ago, by removing the rusty piece of metal.

However, Smith pointed out to PIX11 News, the playground now has a new problem — a busted basketball hoop with a broken plastic backboard. The situation remains problematic, Smith said.

For it’s part, the housing authority released a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“NYCHA is committed to providing safe, clean, and connected communities for everyone who lives in public housing,” said Jasmine Blake, the agency’s deputy chief communications officer. “We had an external auditor review all of our playgrounds and are already taking steps to correct hazardous conditions within 90 days. We have accepted most of the recommendations and are working towards implementing them now.”

PIX11 News intends to review the situation again in 90 days. The comptroller’s office is expected to do so, as well.

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