May 28, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
Some of the city’s most beloved and time-worn playground animals are set to be given a new lease of life thanks to an initiative by the NYC Parks Dept.
The agency is creating a new “retirement home” in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for a number of concrete animal statues that were once a feature of playgrounds across the city going back as far as the 1980s.
The new sculpture garden, called NYC Parks Home for Retired Playground Animals, will open in the fall and consist of former playground favorites that have been removed to make way for new park upgrades and renovations.
NYC Parks is taking the shabby-looking structures out of storage to showcase them to the public. They will be displayed in their current state and without repainting or touchups, the agency said Thursday.
The Parks Dept. said residents will be able to visit the former playground statues to “enjoy a moment of nostalgia and salute some of New York City’s hardest-working public servants.”
The new home will initially feature five retired playground animals – two dolphins, one aardvark, one camel, and one frog – with more planned to be added in the future.
It is unclear how many of the ornaments will eventually populate the retirement home although it is estimated that “hundreds” were installed in city parks over the decades, a former Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, told the Brooklyn Paper in March.
The display area is expected to be located just north of the Unisphere although design details are unclear. The Parks Dept. said the space will include new plantings and new benches.
New pathways will be put down to allow parkgoers to access the area from three separate points.
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver invited all New Yorkers to come and visit the new home when it opens.
“After decades of service to New York City, and with perfect attendance records across the board, it’s time for these Parkies to hang up their hats and enjoy a life of leisure,” Silver said. “Instead of moving down south to Florida, they will get their place in the sun in Flushing.”
Most of the concrete animals that feature in city parks were added in the 1980s and 1990s under former Commissioner Henry Stern, who called on park designers to incorporate animal art into every new playground project.
The sculptures are often removed during park renovations to make way for new play features and to add more accessible play space, according to the Parks Dept.
Instead of being holed up in storage, they will instead be displayed at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.