Playground Fix Taking Too Long

Audit Slams Parks Dept. For Slow Maintenance

The Parks Department dragged its feet in making both routine and emergency repairs at playgrounds in Queens and other parts of the city, according to an audit conducted by the office of City Comptroller John Liu published last Thursday, Apr. 11.

Liu stated the Parks Department followed through on 87 percent of the 6,164 work orders at Queens locations filed between Apr. 1, 2011 and Mar. 31, 2012. The repairs corrected conditions ranging from the minor (such as deteriorated padding on playground surfaces) to the dangerous (such as loose monkey bars).

While 64 percent of the 5,269 work orders completed in Queens were resolved within 30 days time, the comptroller noted, another 16 percent were addressed more than 90 days after the original order was filed.

The longest wait time for a repair order at a Queens playground was in Ozone Park. According to the audit, the Parks Department waited 272 days to complete repairs to remediate uplifted curled edges on the safety surface at the London Planetree Playground, located at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 88th Street.

Reportedly, the Parks Department ordered the work on July 24, 2011, but registered that the repairs were completed on Apr. 20, 2012.

It also took the Parks Department more than 200 days to fix a protruding chain link fence at eye level in the handball court of Leo Ehrenreich- Austin Street Playground, located at the corner of Austin Street and 76th Road in Forest Hills. According to the audit, the work order was filed on June 19, 2011, but the repair was made on Jan. 20, 2012, approximately 215 days later.

Liu’s audit also found that the Parks Department was slow to fix loose monkey bars found at the Vito Maranzano (Glendale) Playground, located at the corner of Central Avenue and 70th Street in Glendale. The work order to repair the condition was filed on June 18, 2011, and the problem was reported as being resolved 209 days later, on Jan. 12, 2012.

Additionally, the comptroller noted, while the Parks Department completed repairs to 89 percent of hazardous conditions classified as being in need of “immediate attention,” the remaining 11 percent of such problems took more than 30 days to remedy.

Auditors also claimed that the Parks Department’s Park Inspection Program investigators misidentified 55 work orders which met the qualifications for being in need of immediate attention.

“It’s bad enough that the city is slow in keeping up with routine maintenance and repairs to playgrounds, but it is unconscionable for the city to drag its feet on fixing hazards that can injure children,” Liu said in a press release issued last Friday. “No child should get hurt on a playground or play equipment that the city knows is damaged. The Parks Department needs to better prioritize repairs to our children’s play areas.”

The audit called upon the Parks Department to follow the following recommendations:

– implement standards to ensure supervisory inspections adhere to Parks Inspection Program standards for remediating immediate action conditions;

– remediate all work orders with hazardous conditions within 30 days;

– ensure immediate action repairs are made within 30 days;

– categorize work order repair types and assign specific timeframes for remediating repairs in each category;

– categorize conditions identified by district supervisors using same criteria used by the Parks Inspection Program inspectors;

– monitor open work orders that are identified as hazardous and resolve them promptly;

– follow up on work requests to ensure they have been processed; and

– create work orders before repairs are completed.

In response to Liu’s audit, the Parks Department-in a Jan. 29 letter to Deputy Comptroller for Audit Tina Kim-disagreed with several of the inquiry’s findings, maintaining that the agency prioritized work orders and completed them in a timely manner.

“The reports do not acknowledge the complexity of the workload, nor the decision-making processes and procedures taken to ensure that the most important or critical work orders are prioritized and completed in a timely fashion,” Liam Kavanagh, first deputy commissioner of the Parks Department, stated in the letter to Kim. “Therefore, we disagree with the way in which the information is presented. We agree that a formal review process for all open work orders would ensure that all requests are managed appropriately. However, we strongly disagree with the finding that Parks did not resolve work orders in a timely manner.”

Further information about the audit can be found online at www.comptroller.nyc.gov.

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