Spector Playground

Located between the West 85th and West 86th Street entrances, Spector is one of the largest of the Park’s playgrounds. The playground is somewhat obscured by topography, a mature stand of trees, and the lack of direct connection to the nearby entrances. Several large trees distributed throughout the playground lend shade and character.

Similar to a number of other playgrounds in Central Park, this playground contains equipment from different eras, a result of incremental improvements instead of comprehensive reconstruction. The playground was originally built between 1935 and 1936 as part of the perimeter playground system. In 1975, the Parks Department reconstructed the playground with a concrete water-spray pool and wood TimberForm equipment, including climbers, tree houses, tire swings, climbing ropes, and a pyramid with slides. After twenty years, much of the wooden equipment had deteriorated. In 1992, funding was secured for improvements to the playground and the Conservancy installed new equipment for younger children. The new equipment and the repair or removal of existing equipment, improved the quality of the play experience, but resulted in a disjointed playground design.

Spector Playground accommodates children ranging in age from two to nine years old. Almost one-third of the site is covered in sand, which functions as a safety surfacing under some of the climbers, and is also a popular play feature. An impressively large oak tree rises from the sand area and shades a good portion of the site. A wood play structure with a fire pole provides views of the playground and surrounding landscape. The playground is defined by its large size and substantial amount of open space that accommodates games and other forms of unstructured play.

Design Goals and Opportunities

The playground’s generous size creates opportunities to focus on expanding play for children ages five to twelve as a complement to nearby Mariners’ playground, which better accommodates preschoolers. The potential exists to provide diverse opportunities for challenging physical play and to incorporate several types of swings—a popular user demand that requires significant space to accommodate. The well-developed tree canopy both inside, and around, the playground is a valuable point of departure for better integrating the playground into the landscape.