ClaimStat Alert: Protecting Kids on NYC Playgrounds

March 1, 2015

In 1903, the City of New York opened Seward Park, the first permanent municipally-built playground in the country. On opening day, over 20,000 children jammed into the park, overwhelming the 5,000 seats that had been set aside for the formal program. The excitement that began in Seward Park soon spread across the City. From 1934 to 1960, as the New Deal and the Baby Boom of the post-WW II era brought additional federal funding for playgrounds, the number of municipal playgrounds in New York City soared from 119 to 777.

Now as then, playgrounds continue to draw children from every corner of the five boroughs. Today, nearly 1,000 playgrounds maintained by the Department of Parks and Recreation (“Parks”) host hundreds of thousands of children annually.

While the vast majority of children safely use our City’s playgrounds, some are injured— sometimes seriously. In this ClaimStat Alert, we analyze playground-related personal injury claims against the City of New York from Fiscal Year 2005 to Fiscal Year 2014. We found the following:

  • 577 claims were filed against the City over the ten-year period—an average of over one a week.
  • Annual claims have risen 53 percent over the last ten fiscal years, from a low of 45 in FY 2005 to a high of 69 in FY 2014, despite the fact that the number of children under the age of 18 in New York City declined by nearly 7 percent from 2005 to 2013.
  • 530 playground-related personal injury claims were settled between FY 2005 and FY 2014 at a cost of $20.6 million.