April 25, 2016
Re: Radburn School playground application
The Radburn Association has received many and varied communications concerning the proposal by the Fair Lawn Board of Education (BOE) to construct an additional playground in the area of the Radburn School.
Radburn is designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior for its planning and design. Radburn School students benefit from the Radburn plan which provides for a seamless transition from the school to the parks. Our Radburn School students have a park setting few other elementary children enjoy. Every one of the Radburn trustees has been, or currently is, a Radburn School parent and appreciates, in a personal way, the importance of the school surroundings for our children. At the same time, the trustees are charged with protecting the historical and aesthetic value of the parks which serve the entire community. Many residents have expressed deep reservations about the proposed construction, especially in the location proposed.
The existing playground and Radburn School’s use of the Radburn park
The existing playground was designed for use by the school and was used by generations of Radburn School students at recess. The Radburn Association has always welcomed Radburn School children to use Radburn facilities including the kickball field, basketball court, and other park areas which are used regularly at recess. At no time has the Radburn Association blocked Radburn School children from playing in the existing playground. In recent years, the BOE has prohibited Radburn School students from using the existing playground during recess. Whatever the reason for this change in policy, we know the playground itself has not been deemed to be unsafe. In fact, the aftercare program for Radburn School uses the existing playground on a regular basis.
The Radburn Association expressed concern about the proposed location of the playground in 2014. For nearly two years, the BOE did not communicate with Radburn
The idea of constructing an additional playground was first discussed with the Radburn Association in a telephone call from the Radburn School principal, Jill Lindsay, to the Radburn Manager in early 2014. The manager asked Mrs. Lindsay where the playground was proposed to be built and Mrs. Lindsay indicated that it was proposed at the top of the hill near first grade doors. Radburn could not give any kind of definitive response to a concept when the application (including all specifications) was years away and would be decided upon by future board members. However, in this initial conversation, nearly two years ago, the Radburn Manager expressed concern that the location proposed—which is at the highest elevation in the area of the school and has the greatest possible visibility in all directions—would make it hard for future trustees to approve. Indeed, the location proposed has the greatest possible visual impact on the surrounding parks of any area of the BOE property.
Rather than continue a conversation with The Radburn Association, the Radburn School Principal and PTA sponsored a door to door petition campaign enlisting support for a playground for which the BOE had not yet applied. Mrs. Lindsay never acknowledged the Radburn Manager's email. Instead, the petition and a visual proposal was received from the PTA. Again, this was not an application that Radburn could approve or deny but, out of concern about diverging expectations, Radburn sought to establish communication with the school and the BOE to understand the BOE’s plans.
In October of 2014, Bruce Watson, Superintendent of Schools, sent an email to the Radburn Manager indicating that he would call to discuss the playground. The Radburn Manager replied, requesting confirmation that the BOE wished to have a playground and agreed to the request for direct discussion between Radburn and the BOE. Radburn received no response from Mr. Watson, Mrs. Lindsay, or any representative of the BOE until March of 2016, when an application was submitted, proposing the very location that Principal Lindsay was told was problematic in 2014.
The next step
The Radburn Association has agreed to meet with the BOE concerning the proposed construction. Radburn will take into consideration the Guidelines of Architectural Control as well as the numerous communications from residents. We welcome any further questions, concerns or comments from our residents in anticipation of our upcoming meeting with the BOE.