A lawsuit is in the works for the toddler whose feet were scalded at the Safari Playground (Central Park West and 91st Street) on June 20.
Lisa Monroig, the mother of the toddler (Luke), has retained the council of McCabe Coleman Ventosa & Patterson PLLC, and has filed a notice of claim citing that that the NYC Department of Parks and Recreations, along with affiliates, were “grossly negligent, and reckless, in the design, construction, installation, repair, maintenance, inspection, and supervision of the Safari Playground thereby causing a two-year [old] child, to sustain serious, severe and, upon information and belief, permanent physical and emotional injuries…”
The claim states that Luke’s feet were burned at a site where a tree once stood before being removed in the summer of 2020, and that the area was patched up and is about 60 feet from the playground’s sprinklers. The claim also states that a “fix job” was done in a flawed manner and has caused hazardous and unsafe conditions.
“If they are going to open a playground, especially for preschool children, they need to make it as safe as possible and follow accepted national and international standards, which they did not,” said Gershon Abramoff, the lawyer representing the family.
The lawyer explained that the city must have known that the area gets very hot, as there was once a tree present to create a shaded environment. The legal team stated that one reading they took on the surface temperature was 180 degrees.
The Central Park Conservancy rebuilt Safari playground in 2019, “a project that included casting new versions of the hippo sculptures and designing new features including play mounds and an interactive water feature.”
Another mom contacted I Love The Upper West Side to tell us the same thing happened to her toddler daughter just days before Luke’s incident. She said that while June 20 was a very hot day, her child’s feet were severely burned at Safari Playground when the temperature outside was only about 75 degrees. “My daughter was burned just days before, and it was odd,” she told us. “It was only 75 degrees outside and breezy. How could it be? When our pediatrician saw our child’s feet she said it almost looked like a chemical burn. Everyone was shocked that a playground surface could do this.” She was told that her child’s burns were so severe it would have warranted a hospital stay. The family has been working with a plastic surgeon who has been able to help with the healing process.
Gershon has vowed to find out why Luke’s incident took place, and says his client is focused on her son’s healing, and wanted to publicly thank all the doctors and nurses who’ve helped in his recovery.
“Luke has always loved Central Park and I hope that the authorities will do what needs to be done so that what happened to Luke will never happen to any other child,” said Lisa.
In a statement sent to Pix 11, the Parks Department wrote that “We want all parkgoers to enjoy our parks and playgrounds this summer, and we urge families to stay safe in the sun on hot days — make sure kids always wear proper footwear, use sunscreen, and drink plenty of water.”
We’ve reached out to the Central Park Conservancy and to the NY Parks Department for additional comment.