Rudin Family Playground

The Rudin Family Playground is located between the entrance and exit lanes of the 96th Street Transverse Road. Unlike most of the Park’s playgrounds, the entrance is located on the perimeter, on Central Park West, instead of a park path. (Ancient Playground on Fifth Avenue at East 85th Street has a similar configuration.) The perimeter of the playground is heavily planted, which helps buffer the playground from the street and transverse road traffic and provides a sense of enclosure. However, the roads and lack of a direct physical connection to the park landscape isolates the playground from the rest of the Park.

The playground was originally built between 1935 and 1936 as part of the perimeter playground system. It was rebuilt in 1992. A prominent wisteria-covered trellis, which divides the space into two areas, provides a shaded place to rest and watch children play, and is well-used by parents and caregivers. The playground contains a large entry plaza with chess and checkers tables that extends into a play area containing tire and bucket swings, a sandbox, and three concrete water-spray bollards. Behind the trellis are three composite play structures.

As a result of the playground’s entrance on Central Park West, it functions more exclusively as a neighborhood playground than some the other Park playgrounds that also attract tourists. Many playground visitors indicate that they like the “local feel” of a playground regularly used by neighborhood residents. The part of the playground containing the entry plaza and trellis tends to be the most social. Children run through the water spray and play games in the open space surrounding the water-play area. Children tend to use the composite play structures in the rear of the playground for more physical play, such as climbing and running. They enjoy dashing from one to another, exploring the different levels and bridge, and using the slides and climbing rings.

Design Goals and Opportunities

The renovation of this playground will refine the existing design and diversify the play experience. The pergola, one of the playground’s defining features, will be repaired. The existing post-and-platform structures will be evaluated to improve the play experience. Because the playground’s entrance is on Central Park West and is not directly connected to the Park, the open space at the entrance will be improved to function as a transitional space between the street and the playground.