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Ramon Aponte Park Revitalized
Pocket Park in Manhattan

Mike Kralovich, NYC Parks



Ramon Aponte Park in Hell's Kitchen (47 Street between 8th & 9th Ave., in Manhattan) has been upgraded with new equipment (GameTime) and safety surfacing, rain gardens and new plantings. The park's new design centers around an existing plum tree (left). The colors of the play equipment were chosen to approximate the foliage colors of the plum tree. When the space was an empty lot in the 1970s, the park's namesake advocated for a park here, and with financial support of local developer Lewis Futterman, the playground opened in 1979. The park was designated part of the NYC Parks system in 1987, and was first renovated in 1990.

Ramon Aponte Park is a 0.17-acre pocket park tucked into the middle of an urban neighborhood block consisting of multi-story residential apartments, commercial storefronts, and educational institutions. Located on West 47th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in the borough of Manhattan, the site was first developed as park space by its namesake, Ramon Aponte, in 1979. Aponte led the advocacy group that saw the potential for the land as a park to rejuvenate the neighborhood.


To help manage stormwater the playground surface tiles are pitched toward the perimeter fence, facilitating runoff into the newly installed planter beds.

The site was initially designed with three distinct areas; a basketball court at the back of the property, a play area to the west, and a spray shower to the east, all divided by a central axis path leading to the courts in the rear. The transformation of this empty lot into a quality recreational space continued with a second reconstruction in 1990, when it became part of the NYC Parks system.

In the latest redesign, the challenge was to provide as much activity as possible in a small area without compromising room to move around in. This was accomplished by having the circulation paths double as 'run-off space' for the play area.


Custom serpentine benches (Sitecraft) offer group seating. The spray pad (Vortex nozzles) is sited in the sunny northeast corner of the park.

The new design relocated the central entrance gate to the west, allowing for a larger, unified play space to the east with equipment manufactured by GameTime of Fort Payne, Alabama. The swings fit best in the northwest corner adjacent to the spray shower, which uses flush-mounted nozzles by Vortex and is sited in the sunny northeast corner of the park. The curvilinear main axis corridor runs diagonally through the site from the entrance gate to the back corner spray shower to evoke a 'natural' feel in this small box-like setting.

The new design is centered around the existing plum tree near the center of the site. A custom serpentine bench by Sitecraft provides a group-seating cove on axis to the entrance. The play area is defined by the curvilinear pathway inlaid with marbleized safety surface tiles, which have a grain bias working in direction with the asphalt block pavers. The offset basket weave pavement gives a pleasant directional flow through the site. The play unit is a combination of two styles offered by the manufacturer and is designed to maximize play opportunities in the available space. Its colors have been chosen to match the foliage of the plum tree.

To increase sustainability and help manage stormwater, rain gardens were added to the playground. The entire site has been pitched toward the front, feeding the plant beds just inside the perimeter fence. Plants were chosen to enhance the existing site plantings. All of the new planting choices had previously been planted on the site, with the exception of eastern redbuds in the group seating area, which were selected for their easy maintenance and complementary dialogue with the existing plum tree. No other new species have been introduced to the project.

The design and reconstruction for this project was funded by City Council member Christine Quinn in the amount of $1.4 million.


The playhouse allows for imaginative play, an important alternative to purely physical play pieces.

Team List
NYC Parks Designer: Christopher M. Crowley, RLA
NYC Parks Supervisors: Nancy Prince, RLA, Gus Frindt, RLA, Andrew Penzi, RLA, Alex Hart, RLA, Leslie Peoples, RLA, Desmond Spillane, David Carlson, RLA, Charles McKinney
NYC Parks Resident Engineer: Priya Ganesalingam, William Leong, Charles Tesler, RLA, Rock Massillon
Contractor: WBE Unlimited
Contractor Foreman: Damiano Di Giola
Photographs @ NYC Parks

As seen in LASN magazine, March 2018, Playgrounds.

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April 22, 2019, 3:58 am PDT

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