Tots Playground

Tots playground is located on the site of the famous 1956 “Battle of Central Park” conflict between Moses and West Side neighborhood parents. Moses planned to build a parking lot for Tavern on the Green on the grassy slope adjacent to one of the original marginal playgrounds (later rebuilt as Adventure Playground). Mothers who frequented the playground and picnicked with their children in this spot discovered Moses’ plans and fought a successful battle, defeating him in the press and the courts—but only after bulldozers flattened the area. Although the mothers had protested the destruction of a Park landscape, as a concession Moses had a new playground built instead of the parking lot.

The resulting playground was typical of other Moses-era playgrounds, except for its smaller size and rectilinear form. The playground was rebuilt in 1968, based on a design by Richard Dattner, who had recently completed the adjacent Adventure Playground. Featuring multiple sand areas and smaller-scaled wood and concrete play features, it was designed to accommodate children younger than those frequenting Adventure Playground. In 1987, the Conservancy reconstructed the playground with new post-and-platform play equipment and a sandbox. Surveys and observation of use patterns indicate that this playground primarily serves preschoolers. The playground contains toddler swings and two small-scaled composite play structures, as well as a sandbox at the base of one of the play structures. The equipment provides a variety of experiences for young children, ranging from physical play and exploration on the play structures to manipulative play in the sandbox to the thrill of swinging. Caregivers appreciate its small size and good visibility, which allows them to easily supervise their children, many of whom are just learning to walk. The playground’s intimate size also contributes to an aspect of this playground, cited by adult playground visitors, that fosters social interaction between young children.

Playground Construction

Tots Playground has been in construction since January 2013. The primary goals for rebuilding this playground are to better integrate it with the surrounding landscape; enhance the relationship between Tots and adjacent Adventure Playground; and to improve the play experience for the youngest playground users. The playground reconstruction includes the following:
• Modification of the playground’s footprint from a rectilinear to a circular shape.
• Providing new play features appropriately scaled for use by toddlers including contoured landforms, swings, and a sandbox. Introducing a water feature, which did not previously exist on the site.
• Reconstructing nearby Park paths to be accessible and to improve their connection to both playgrounds.
• Supplementing the existing plantings surrounding the playground.