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City Controller: Philly's parks are wrecks

A report from Controller Alan Butkovitz found dangerous condition at city parks, playgrounds and recreation centers.

Philadelphia parks Broken Benches Broken benches at a city park. Credit: City Controller's Office

You may want to think twice before sending your kids to play at city recreational centers and playgrounds this summer.

At least that's what a new report from City Controller Alan Butkovitz seems to suggest.

His review of Department of Parks and Recreation facilities — a follow-up to a report he released last year — found "dangerous and hazardous conditions" persist at rec centers and playgrounds.

They include exposed wires, electrical outlets near sinks and clogged outdoor storm drains that cause flooding and heighten the risk for mosquito infestations.

"With the warm weather upon us, our recreation facilities will be full of kids playing and using the facilities for sports activities," Butkovitz said in a statement.

"All Philadelphia’s children deserve clean and safe recreation centers. However, that is still not what we found."

He said half of the 28 sites his staff reviewed contained fire hazards, including fire exits locked with chains and blocked with large objects, and expired or empty fire extinguishers.

"These hazards and conditions can cause serious injury and harm to our children," he said. "Management and staff must take all safety measures, especially ensuring that exits are easily accessible in the event of an emergency."

Butkovitz said his office also observed water damage at half of the sites they inspected. That includes facilities with leaking roofs and visible watermarks on the ceiling, as well as a toilet that overflows into the kitchen area of Roxborough's Kendrick Recreation Center.

"Repairs need to be made at the first sign of water damage because it can quickly become a major problem," he said. "The longer the condition goes untouched the more expensive it will be to repair in the future."

Finally, according to Butkovitz, the Cruz Recreation Center building in North Philadelphia has a large hole in it, creating issues with heating and cooling and allowing building debris to fall on the sidewalk.

"Parks and Recreation needs to develop a plan to inspect every recreation center and playground to identify and correct maintenance and safety issues," Butkovitz said.

"These inspections should start immediately and continue on an annual basis. While the department addressed many of the findings in our previous review, it must continue to place a high priority and greater emphasis on many of the findings that persist."

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