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Flay-grounds: Bay Ridge, Dyker lead borough in playground injury lawsuits

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Around Bay Ridge, you play at your own risk.

More people filed personal injury claims from Ridge-area playgrounds than anywhere else in Brooklyn — and the area ranked second-highest in the city — according to a report from Comptroller Scott Stringer. But locals were skeptical that all the claims were merited.

“Times are tough,” said Michael Z., who was with his two kids at Bensonhurst Park, and did not want to give his full name. “People will use their kids to get 5, 10 grand — especially from the City of New York.”

The dad said he was satisfied with Bensonhurst Park, where the city settled four claims totalling $65,000 since 2005.

“It looks maintained. It’s clean,” he said.

Families filed 20 injury claims over malfunctioning playground equipment in Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Dyker Heights since 2005, according to the report, and the city shelled out $207,500 to 10 claimants over the same period. Parents said the figure was a little much.

“That number is kind of scary,” said Maribella A., who brought her toddler to Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge on March 10 and also wouldn’t give her full name.

That playground generated two claims and a $30,000 settlement since 2005, the report found.

Maribella said she has had no issues at the Owl’s Head playground, which has separate sets of play equipment for younger and older kids. Instead, she suggested small children using older kid’s equipment could have led to injuries.

“I never feel comfortable in this part,” she said, referring to the bigger monkey bars. “It’s not for the little ones, but they want to come here.”

Another parent said her main concern is ice that accumulates on playgrounds, not the equipment itself.

“Nothing has been removed. It’s hard as cement,” said Rimi M., withholding her last name and pointing to a layer of compacted snow covering a rubber play surface at Owl’s Head Park.

A parks department spokesman said the agency works hard to make sure kids play safe.

“Ensuring the safety of our children is our number-one priority for our world-class playgrounds, and we continue to look for ways to improve our already high standards of safe design,” said parks spokesman Sam Biederman, noting that the department has fixed issues at sites where claims arose. “We are reviewing the comptroller’s report of claims referenced over a 10-year period.”

The green-space agency has taken a pro-active stance on problem equipment in recent years, including removing spinning disc rides and swings that repeatedly caused problems, he said.

Ten of the Ridge-area claims are still being litigated, a spokeswoman for Stringer said. Some have not been settled after years of litigation, including one claim against the 79th Street Playground in Bay Ridge that dates back to 2008. Parents said the slow pace for payouts is off-putting.

“That seems kind of ridiculous,” said Ridge parent Chris Ray while his daughter played at Owl’s Head Park.

Locals said responsibility for kids’ safety on public playgrounds lies in the hands of both parents and the city, but vigilance is key.

“It’s 50–50,” said Rimi. “We’re part of a community — we pay taxes, and the parks should be kept up — but I’m not going to just let my children roam.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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