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Queens Chronicle

Liu: Parks needs speedier handymen

Comptroller audit claims agency slow to fix dangerous situations

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Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:32 am, Thu Apr 25, 2013.

Want to play?

Would you allow your child to do it among protruding fences, loose monkey bars, even open manholes?

An audit conducted by Comptroller John Liu contends the city Parks Department has been slow to respond to instances of faulty playground equipment around the borough, setting aside needed repair work for over a year in some cases.

In one case, loose monkey bar railings sat unfixed at a Glendale playground throughout an entire summer in 2011.

“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. “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 agency contended it keeps child safety a top priority and makes repairs in a timely manner.

“We disagree with the conclusions drawn from an analysis of records and work orders that safety issues were not addressed in a timely manner,” said Parks spokesman Phil Abramson.

The audit looked at work orders reported by the Parks Inspection Program from April 1, 2011 through March 2012, and gauged the response time from the date first reported.

The Parks Department has a separate categorization for repairs that pose a greater risk to children, called immediate attention conditions, which must be repaired within 30 days.

The report found the city agency somewhat lacking in response time in the borough; run-of-the-mill repairs were fixed within 30 days 64 percent of the time, while 16 percent took more than three months to fix. Inspectors also found 11 percent, 58 in total, of the immediate attention conditions in Queens were not fixed within the requisite 30 days.

The borough’s parks endured the second-slowest response rate, with Brooklyn seeing 58 percent of its repairs completed within 30 days, compared to Manhattan’s 80 percent, the Bronx’s 90 percent and Staten Island’s 83 percent.

The findings ring a little too true to green activists such as Geoffrey Croft, who said the audit’s findings were endemic of a bigger problem within the agency.

“There’s just so many issues revolving around that section of the Parks Department,” he said. “Part of it is the management structure; part of it is a personnel issue. They also don’t seem to have a grasp on what needs to be done.”

What needs to be done, according to Liu, is a reprioritization and reassessment to make sure inspections adhere to Parks Inspection Program standards. He also called for a monthly review of work orders to identify immediate hazards that should take priority.

The Parks Department said it would implement some of the comptroller’s recommendations.

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