2019 Merit Award

General Design

Playground 52

Bronx, NY

Landscape Architect:

NYC Parks Capital Projects Division


Project Team:

NYC Parks

HAKS Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors, P.C.

The LiRo Group

J.R. Group

Vernon Hills Contracting Corp.

About the Project:

This $7M multi-phase reconstruction completely transformed this high-use, inspirational park into a true outdoor community center where users of all ages and abilities enjoy gathering, splashing, competing, and playing. The unique setting, with ample open space, active climbers, and quiet corners, support hundreds of little imaginations daily. Teachers demonstrate environmental processes using raingardens and native plants, grandparents play chess, toddlers swing and climb on equipment built just for them, young teens learn from seasoned skateboarders on concrete ramps and rails, and the community comes together under the lights to dance, perform and socialize at Playground (PG) 52’s one-of-a-kind amphitheater, dance floor, and covered stage.


A 1.8 acre playground is located at 681 Kelly St in the South Bronx, surrounded by tree-lined streets, residences, community gardens, schools, faith organizations, and small businesses.

Special Factors

High Use Park for Everyone: Parks are often the backyards and schoolyards of New York City residents and PG 52 is no exception. Surrounded by homes, schools and day care centers over 500 school children visit this playground daily. The new design supports this daily use with drama, sports, circuits and graduated challenges, plus un-programmed open space and outdoor classroom opportunities. Community input meetings were held to understand specific needs including the desire for a larger performance venue for salsa dances and concerts. The new amphitheater accommodates 381 seated and allows for gated access, “back of house”, accessible covered stage, and dance floor. Unique to Playground 52 is the collaboration with ’52 People for Progress’, a group of volunteer advocates who help with programs and maintenance and are valuable assets in this high use, thriving, neighborhood park.

Accessibility and Security: Historically the Playground 52 community has been influential in reducing crime at this neighborhood park. To not reverse that trend but still create a park that is more accessible, vibrant, and connected to its community, we lowered fences and added lights and security cameras. We increased transparency and visibility, yielding a more secure and welcoming site. We provided a variety of seating options to accommodate a wide range of users, activities, and microclimates.

Green Infrastructure: This project increases permeability from 2% to 17% and includes rainwater collection, percolation and, due to subsurface rock conditions, underground storage with controlled release to help New York City’s stressed drainage systems during heavy rainfall events.