Public housing residents, posh prep school kids spark NYC playground war — with tensions going into full swing

The war of the concrete jungle fitness center has erupted on the Upper West Side.

Tensions are in full swing at a playground on West ninetieth Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues as housing-project residents battle to maintain private-school households, together with these from the posh $64,000-a-year Trinity School, out of their newly renovated playground.

“Once they redid the playground, everybody and their mamas started coming,” mentioned Cheryl Russell, 62, a 13-year resident of the sprawling Stephen Wise Towers.

Girls in uniform from Geneva School of Manhattan playing at Wise Towers' playground with signage indicating it's exclusively for residents
Upper West Side residents and close by personal faculties frequented the Wise Towers playground however the property administration firm has now put up indicators saying “residents only.” Helayne Seidman

“They give these looks like we’re the visitors,” she advised The Post.

The nasty tug-of-war escalated final week when indicators forbidding non-residents from Cassone Playground — also called “Llama Park” for its assortment of concrete horses typically mistaken for llamas.

“Can’t you read,” indignant residents have shouted at parkgoers, referring to the brand new and sometimes ignored indicators. One nanny mentioned a resident yelled at her, “You tell the other nannies that they can’t come here, either.”

People enjoying the newly renovated Llama Park at Wise Towers on West 91st Street, New York, despite 'Residents Only' and 'No Trespassing' signs.
The newly renovated park is a favourite for a lot of within the neighborhood and is commonly stuffed with nannies throughout the day. Helayne Seidman

Residents contend they’ve a proper to limit entry.

They say the wealthy kids disrespect residents and the house, which was renovated earlier this yr after a personal administration firm took over the New York City Housing Authority property in 2021.

“I’ve heard kids say in several cases, ‘Oh, I can’t play with you because you’re black’ or, ‘Why you in my park?’” mentioned Russell.

Cheryl Russell, a long-term resident of Wise Towers, sitting on a bench in newly renovated Llama Park, expressing concerns about maintaining its beauty.
“They beautified the place, why can’t we keep it that way?” Cheryl Russell, a 13-year resident of the complicated mentioned. Helayne Seidman

Some individuals have gotten too comfy, she mentioned, letting their kids run via and even pee within the gardens as a result of there are not any public loos. That resulted in a neighbor briefly hanging an indication that learn “Curb your child,” she mentioned.

“They beautified the place, why can’t we keep it that way?” Russell mentioned.

Some tenants say extra outsiders than residents fill the park some days. “It’s okay if you want to come, but don’t monopolize,” Russell added.

“We love all kids, but treat everybody the same,” one other longtime resident, Beverly, advised The Post.

Stone llama statues in Llama Park at the renovated Wise Towers playground, New York City, with Trinity School seen in background, american flag post at center.
The Trinity School is positioned proper throughout the road from the playground and is a well-liked for households ready for kids to be dismissed from the school. Helayne Seidman

She as soon as witnessed a resident inform a person it was in opposition to the principles to have his canine within the park.

“The man circled and mentioned ‘shut up, you bitch,’” Beverly said.

The police were even called to the location twice regarding disputes, but no arrests were made, according to sources. The NYPD could not give specifics on the incidents.

On May 24, before the official signs went up, someone taped the gate closed and hung up flyers saying “This park is for Wise Tower residents only” and “This is not a public park.”

Handmade paper sign taped to a fence, attempting to prevent non-residents from using the Wise Tower playground
Before official ones were put up, someone attempted to keep non-residents out of the park with their own signs taped to the gate. Obtained by The New York Post
Signage on a fence at Llama Park, Wise Towers, New York indicating it's for residents only
The New York City Housing Authority, even if operated by a private management company, can dictate the use of its properties, according to officials. Helayne Seidman

Though there has been confusion over whether the park is public, the residents appear to be within their right to limit access. The playground is not under jurisdiction of the city Parks Department, according to officials.

“NYCHA campuses are private property,” a spokesman for the authority told The Post, adding that Wise Towers residents have expressed concerns about access to the playground and treatment of the new equipment.

“We support Wise Towers’ residents and their need to limit use of the house to residents of the event and the property supervisor’s signage to inform non-residents that the courtyard just isn’t a public house,” he mentioned.

Girls in school uniform playing on a newly renovated playground with jungle gyms and sprinklers at Wise Towers in New York, despite signage restricting usage to residents only
Nearby personal school college students, and plenty of others, frequent the park for its newly renovated jungle gyms, sprinklers and scooter path. Helayne Seidman

The Trinity School beforehand had an settlement to make use of the house for kindergarten courses and recess, the West Side Rag reported.

But in a May 28 electronic mail acquired by the outlet, the school introduced it could not be utilizing the grounds any longer.

“We are suspending our recess play there for the time being,” wrote principal Kristin Crawford. “I suggest families also suspend playing there after school and over the weekends.”

B’nai Jeshurun, an Upper West Side Hebrew school, needed to cease utilizing it as effectively, based on mother and father.

Residents and locals in the newly finished Llama Park playground at Wise Towers on West 91st St, New York, awaiting a ribbon-cutting ceremony
Wise Towers residents predict to carry a ribbon-cutting for the park, which was accomplished throughout the winter, within the coming weeks. Helayne Seidman
Students from Upper West Side School writing letters, asking to be allowed back to the local park
Nearby school kids wrote letters to the Wise Towers tenants affiliation begging to be allowed again to the park. Obtained by The New York Post
Students from an Upper West Side private school writing letters to Wise Towers tenants' association to use the playground, an alternative to Central Park or Riverside Park.
Families from all around the neighborhood visited the playground as an alternative choice to Central Park or Riverside Park. Obtained by The New York Post

Saddened schoolkids despatched letters to the board begging to return play within the park.

“Everyone is just surprised and devastated,” mentioned Upper West Side mother Mira G.

“It was kids from everywhere,” she mentioned. “It’s Manhattan. We integrate, we play together. It doesn’t matter what school, where everybody lives, and what the religion or race is.”

Child in a playground: 7-year-old Ja'nivah Thomas swinging on the swing at Wise Towers playground in New York with another girl approaching, amidst local dispute over the playground's usage.
Wise Towers residents have expressed issues about entry points and the therapy of name new playground tools and newly-renovated grounds by non-residents. Helayne Seidman

“I understand both sides but I would hate to see this place get shut off to the community,” mentioned David Owens, a dad of two who lives close by and has visited the park for over 50 years. “You want to bring the community together — playgrounds are what do that.”

Additional reporting by Jon Levine

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