Julianne’s Playground: Broken, taped equipment causes concern for parents, Hutch PTA

Junior League renovation delayed as group mobilized to provide Covid-19 aid

The slide closed off with tape. (Cristina Stefanizzi)

Julianne’s Playground has been a topic of discussion among community members online and in PTA meetings with the school district over the past several weeks due to broken equipment.

One installation was closed to use with yellow “caution” tape; another patched with duct tape. Facebook posts first highlighted the issue.

The Hutchinson Elementary School PTA met with Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ and Assistant Superintendent of Business Jim Hricay to discuss repairs needed at Julianne’s because the playground has provided recess space for Hutchinson students for two years while the new school was being built and the old structure demolished.

The slide displayed a duct-tape patch. (Cristina Stefanizzi)

Hutch PTA co-presidents Alex Loewy and Kim Melloy said the meeting discussed both “short-term and long-term plans for the playground.”

Julianne’s Playground holds an interesting and special place among the public children’s play spaces in the Town of Pelham. The playground was built 20 years ago in memory of Julianne Borsella, an eight-year-old victim of Ewing’s sarcoma who went to Hutch. It is owned and maintained by the Pelham school district, yet is available for use by town residents—and may be the largest park/playground in Pelham that is open to all town residents. (Shore Park can only be accessed by Pelham Manor citizens, and many other playgrounds are physically on school properties, some of which can be locked up.) The tennis courts at Julianne’s are scheduled by the town recreation department.

“As Julianne’s is owned by the district, we will continue to maintain the property,” Hricay said in late March. “The slide was unfortunately damaged a couple of weeks ago, and a new slide has been ordered. While we were originally told it would take six months to arrive due to supply issues, we now expect it to arrive in approximately 10 weeks. Other equipment repairs/replacement is underway, as needed, including a new handle for the zip line and a new piece of equipment to replace the tire swing.”

According to the Hutch PTA, the tire swing was removed when it was deemed unsafe, while the hand train will be assessed to see if it can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced. Some purple steps were recently fixed or replaced. Profanity was removed from the tunnel.

“The Junior League of Pelham originally had plans to gift the district with a new playground with work beginning as early as the fall of 2022,” said Loewy and Melloy in an email. “Due to the pandemic, this project now has an approximate timeline of five years. The maintenance and care of Julianne’s has always been and will remain the responsibility of the district.”

Junior League Signature Project

In January 2020, two months before the pandemic hit Pelham, the Junior League announced its plans to renovate the playground as a “signature project” to begin after the completion of the new school.

That was delayed because the Junior League launched a major mobilization to assist the community during the pandemic.

“The signature project, which is meant to have a long-lasting impact on the community, has a five-to-seven year timeline,” said Jade-Snow Joachim, president of the Junior League. Creation of Woodland Park along Wolfs Lane, the renovation of Martha Weihman Park (near Huguenot Memorial Church) and the development of the original Julianne‘s Playground are former signature projects.

Plaque and statue memorializing Julianne Borsella, after whom the playground is named. The plaque reads, “Play, laugh and remember the courage and spirit of a girl who brought out the best in all of us.” (Cristina Stefanizzi)

“The plan was to break ground in fall 2022 once the new Hutchinson school and playground were complete and the students no longer needed to use Julianne‘s as their daily recess spot,” said Joachim. The timeline is now five to seven years in order to “reevaluate” original plans, she said.

“Supply chain issues, increased cost of materials and discussions about what the community might now need from a park/green space in a ‘post-Covid’ world will be taken into consideration,” Joachim said. “We have earmarked some funds in our current budget and are in communication with Dr. Champ and the district about any ‘quick hits’ we can support this year to help make the park more immediately enjoyable while the full plan is implemented.”

Meanwhile, Hricay said, “Play equipment for younger students has already been installed at Hutchinson and is currently being used for students in grades K-2 during recess. Once the playing field and new play equipment is complete, Hutchinson will no longer use Julianne’s for recess.”