Bendheim Playground

The entrance to Bendheim Playground lies opposite the East Meadow, reinforcing a connection to the landscape. Visitors entering the Park at Fifth Avenue experience the Meadow before reaching the playground. The playground was originally built between 1935 and 1936 as part of the perimeter playground system. Photographs taken shortly after it opened illustrate that it was initially even more open to the landscape, with benches or short fences demarcating the space. Although taller fences were installed soon after and have remained in place since, Bendheim Playground nonetheless retains some of its relationship to the Park. There are several large trees, inside and around, the playground, providing shade and evoking some of the character of the surrounding landscapes. Users cite ample shade as a primary reason to visit the playground.

In 1997, the Conservancy completely rebuilt Bendheim Playground as a universally accessible playground, designed to accommodate disabled and able-bodied children alike. The playground contains a large post-and-platform play structure that children in wheelchairs can access along ramps or by means of transfer platforms. The playground also includes a traditional sandbox and raised sand tables, accessible swings and bucket swings, and a ground-accessible water feature. In 1999, the Conservancy constructed an accessible restroom just inside the entrance to the playground.

Bendheim is primarily used by neighborhood children ages two to nine. Visitors to nearby Mount Sinai Medical Center also frequent the playground. The large composite play structure is the playground’s main feature. Younger children enjoy hiding in and exploring spaces below the decking. The spiral water-spray feature is popular during summer months. Children enjoy running through it as well as touching the jets.

Design Goals and Opportunities

When Bendheim Playground was rebuilt as a Playground for All Children, it exceeded the existing standards for accessibility. Since then, the standards for accessible routes in playgrounds have become more specific, and additional work is required to ensure that the playground is universally accessible. The goal of focused improvements in the playground will be to exceed current accessibility requirements and increase play value for children of all abilities. With the recent restoration of the East Meadow and surrounding landscapes, an additional opportunity exists to improve the playground’s connection to its newly restored environs. Landscape improvements will include additional plantings to buffer the playground from Fifth Avenue and restoration of the slope north of the Playground, which has lost several trees in recent years.