Sandy-damaged playground to be replaced

3 year-old Matthew Ramirez enjoys the sprinklers at 3 year-old Matthew Ramirez enjoys the sprinklers at the Georgia Avenue playground in Long Beach on Tuesday Aug. 26, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Long Beach city workers plan to demolish and replace a popular west end playground that was damaged by superstorm Sandy.

But the work will necessitate the closure of the Georgia Avenue playground in the Arthur Von Glahn Park, and the new one won't be completed until next spring, drawing mixed reviews from parents. Several welcomed the equipment upgrade but some were concerned about losing access to the area.

The playground, a little over 2,000 square feet, is routinely packed with parents and with young children running through a sprinkler system or playing on slides and jungle gyms. The new designs call for similar amenities, including water features, shaded benches and tables, swings and additional equipment.

Long Beach Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba said the fix-up is part of a citywide initiative to upgrade all city parks.

It is the third of at least six city parks slated for a renovation by the city in recent years. The city replaced the Clark Street Park in 2008, Sherman Brown Park in 2012, and rebuilt Magnolia Park twice, in 2011 and again in 2013 after Sandy.

The Georgia Avenue playground is expected to close late next month so city workers can begin pulling up the rubberized groundcover and playground equipment.

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Demolition at the playground will start after the school year begins and depends on when the weather turns colder. New construction cannot begin until spring when the weather warms. New rubberized play surface and equipment will not set in colder temperatures, LaCarrubba said.

"We don't want to interrupt any playtime this year for kids in the neighborhood," LaCarrubba said. "The concern is we won't be able to get the surface to set in the winter."

Salt water from Sandy's flooding damaged the playground's rubber safety surface and corroded the adhesive, requiring large pieces to be replaced, LaCarrubba said. City workers decided to replace playground equipment all at once, rather than tear up the playground again to replace equipment in the next few years.

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At last week's meeting, the City Council approved a $243,000 contract with Deer Park-based Playsites Plus Surfaces to complete the work. After the original contractor defaulted on the project, the city received only one bidder and was able to negotiate the price, saving nearly $50,000, according to a city report.

The city expects to be reimbursed for $127,000 in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The remaining funds will come from the city's community development block grants and the parks and recreation budget.

Rebecca Pedersen said she takes her 21/2-year-old daughter Ella to the playground every day. She said many Long Beach west end residents lack backyards and rely on the playground or the beach. She said she was glad the city waited until the end of summer to start work.

"This needs to happen. It's a dump," Pedersen said. "Our kids have nowhere to go. This is one of the only areas that's safe to play."

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