It is a lazy summer afternoon in Queens. At four o’clock, the sun is shining through a cloudy sky and the strong scent of fresh-cut grass fills the air. In the playground at Gantry Plaza State Park, in Long Island City, children play while their parents relax. Laughs and screams erupt from every corner.
A young boy in a black shirt, black shorts, and black sneakers hangs upside down from the rope pyramid, an intricate spiderweb structure of red ropes that shoots 12 feet into the air. His brown bowl-cut hair keeps getting into his eyes and he angrily brushes it away. A young girl, wearing pink shorts and a white T-shirt, races to the top of the pyramid. Her brown hair, in a ponytail, floats in the wind as she carefully looks for the next step in her ascent.
Children shout at their parents to look, as they proudly, one by one, reached the top. Parents observe and encourage them. Some parents, seating on the benches under the trees’ shadow, smile and wave at their children. Others cheer them on from the coffee shop’s terrace, overlooking the park, while sipping on a smoothie. A mom walks up to the pyramid to snap a few pictures of her children, before asking them to come down because they had to go home. A few complain, but the children reluctantly climb down. A young girl in a pink T-shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers is hesitantly looking at the slide. She finally decides to slide down once her mother, a tall auburn-haired woman in a strapless, black-and-white striped sundress, holds her hand. On the other side of the playground, children run through the fountains, cooling off in the water and splashing each other. Some even try to get their parents wet, but no adult partakes in the game.
There is a feeling of peace and serenity in this chaotic and noisy playground. No child is crying and no parent is yelling. It is just a lazy afternoon in a playground in Queens. Across the East River, Manhattan’s skyscrapers overlook the park. The Empire State Building presides among them, a tall sentinel guarding the city and its children.