The John Jay Playground in NYC: Newly Designed and Renovated on the Upper East Side

John Jay Playground on the Upper East Side with kids of all ages playing

It's always good news when any New York City playground, in any neighborhood, gets lots of new equipment, and a new surface, and new benches and landscaping. But for residents of the Upper East Side and, especially, for residents of Glenwood's elegant Pavilion, on 77th and York, it is GREAT news that the city just finished a huge, $1.4-million redesign and renovation of the John Jay Playground, which, for families with young children, basically functions as the Pavilion's back yard. Last Thursday was the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new and clean and smart and spiffy and FUN John Jay Playground and, judging by the squealing-with-delight crowds of kids there yesterday afternoon, the renovation project is an enormous success. 


Swarms of kids play on the new John Jay Playground in NYC - a giant park set between buildings on the Upper East Side

The theme here at the new John Jay Playground on the Upper East Side is "River's Edge", and the designers play it out nicely, both literally (an authentic-looking wooden lifeboat sits in the middle of the things; one of the primary climbing/imaginative play structures is shaped like a ship, complete with captain's deck and prow) and more suggestively (the elaborate climbing net reminded us of scrambling up to the crow's nest… or, at least, watching those far more spry than us do so). There are lots of new swings, of course, and the sandbox has several raised tables on which to "work", and there are rings from which to dangle and traverse whatever it is you can imagine you must gangle above and traverse over (lava? shark-infested waters?). In every corner of the space–which, while packed with equipment, still offers plenty of room to run–we saw children having a blast.   

A unique John Jay Playground structure with bounce tubes and slides

The surface of the new John Jay Playground is a light-colored rubber, which is soft and forgiving of falls and will get less hot in the summer than the black rubber carpeting that used to be here. The fencing up near and including the front gate is lower by a few feet, and lighter, and more welcoming, and there are new wooden benches and bushes surrounding the space. And the two most noticeable holdovers from the "old" John Jay are welcome ones: the pair of swimming pools, right by the river (though these are not yet filled with water, obviously) and the giant purple and green pyramid to the east of the main lot, and on which a number of preschooler-types were climbing and sliding. 

John Jay Playground's expansive monkey bars that run across the entire playground

John Jay Playground, Park, and Pool Details 

The main entrance to the John Jay playground is at the eastern end of 77th Street, on Cherokee Place, and is sure to become a destination playground for much of eastern Upper East Side. 

A young girl on a swing surround by other families at the John Jay Playground in New York City

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