NYC Parks Department Motto: Stick to the plans, no matter how irrational or unwelcome they are.

AstroLand Park, Coney Island

AstroLand Park, Coney Island

The NYC Parks Department never ceases to amaze. Operates as a pure business model. Promotes privatization ventures without fail. Destroys thousands of mature city trees to put forth splashy expensive redesigns of parks. Pitches “MillionTreesNYC” “initiative” with little planning given as to how to care for and maintain the trees. Lets parks fall into disrepair so communities are desperate for change. Redesigns parks that don’t need redesign. Corporate giveaways of parks in areas where they are most needed (see: Yankees. The Bronx.) and the city pays for the new parks. Reduction in public space. No concern for community mandates or input. Manipulates Community Boards, NY City Council, and other city agencies by lack of transparency and purposefully withholding information and misstating plans.

If Mayor Bloomberg did not view city Parks as corporatizing entities that are exploited for their real estate value to property owners, businesses and tourism, and was looking for someone to care for and cherish our Parkland, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe would be out of a job and working for, say, Chase Manhattan, Madison Square Garden, or, perhaps, Bloomberg LP.

If there isn’t enough confirmation that the Parks Department digs in its heels and won’t abandon its plans no matter what damming evidence is in front of the Commissioner … than take the recent articles about artificial turf, that synthetic substance made from recycled tires that has been placed in 94 parks and ballfields across NYC’s five boroughs thus far.

Today’s Metro NY follows up a story in Saturday’s New York Daily News investigating the high temperatures the artificial turf reaches when a child, adult or animal walks or plays on it.

In Saturday’s (7/5) NY Daily News, Jeff Wilkins and Elizabeth Hays report: “Artificial turf installed in city fields can heat up to a blistering 162 degrees even on a mild summer day, a Daily News investigation has found.” This is twice as high as the temperature of natural grass.

The writers encountered 9 year old Yannick Pena at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx after he walked on the artificial turf there. He said, “My feet are burning! I had to dump cold water on my shoes just to walk around.”

What would Commissioner Benepe say to that? Commissioner Benepe is, after all, a big advocate of synthetic turf.

Well, Liam Kavanagh, first deputy Parks Commissioner, told the News: “The temperatures can get very high during the heat of the day. But people are smart. They are not going to use a place that is uncomfortable to play on.”

Other than the heat, there are other problems: “Earlier this year, The News reported concerns that the millions of tiny crumbs contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium, as well as volatile organic compounds and other chemicals.”

Deputy Commissioner Kavanagh said the city would begin using a “carpet-style turf” and “plans to stop using the crumb-rubber infill because of excessive heat.”

However, in testing a field at Macombs Dam Park that has the “new turf,” The Daily News found that it also registered “as high as 160 degrees.”

In today’s Metro NY, Patrick Arden reports new signs are now appearing in the NYC parks and ballfields that contain artificial turf. The signs state: “This field can get hot on warm, sunny days. If you experience symptoms of heat-related illness, such as dizziness, weakness, headache, vomiting, or muscle cramps, move to a shaded area. Drink water, rest, and seek medical attention if you do not feel better.

Metro’s investigation backed up the Daily News report, “One day last month, the artificial turf at Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza was 165.5 degrees, while a nearby plot of grass measured just 83 degrees. Waves of heat rose from the field.”

Will the Parks Department follow the logical route and abandon their turf dream of installing these substances in 68 more locations? All evidence points to the contrary.

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7 Comments

  1. Patricia McKee

     /  July 10, 2008

    It’s all about “follow the money”.

  2. Paul

     /  July 10, 2008

    As a college athlete who practices and plays on FieldTurf surfaces constantly throughout the humid east-coast summer heat, I can assure you that the field temperatures that have been measured on these artificial turf surfaces never hindered my performance or put me in a state of discomfort. On a hot day I could not tell a difference, regarding surface temperature, between playing on FieldTurf or natural grass, however, there is a noticeable temperature difference between all-rubber in-fill surfaces and sand-rubber in-fill (FieldTurf) surfaces. The all-rubber in-fill surfaces were definitely hotter in comparison to FieldTurf. Also, I find that walking on cement or an asphalt surface is significantly hotter in comparison to a FieldTurf surface, and you see plenty of kids and adults playing basketball in the summer heat on these asphalt courts, for hours on end, without complaints.
    From personal experience, when the summer heat would become unbearable, our facilities operations staff would lightly sprinkle the FieldTurf surface with some water for some 10 minutes, which would reduce the temperature. The aspect of FieldTurf field that truly appeals to me as an athlete, who shares facilities with other teams, is that FieldTurf can endure the harsh, continual use, day in and day out, and eliminates weather concerns or the need of maintenance. Field turf ultimately allows for significantly more playing time than any other surface.

  3. Ben

     /  July 11, 2008

    I’ve played baseball on turf fields many times in high school and college, and I can attest that they take a significant toll on you. You can always see the ‘heat waves’ coming up off the ground, and you feel it much more that even on concrete, and certainly grass. But I suppose if it’s cheaper to maintain, then that is more important than the health, safety and comfort of citizens.

  4. Paul

     /  July 16, 2008

    Ben, are you talking about Astroturf all-rubber infill surfaces? Because if you are, that’s the problem. Sand-Rubber infill surfaces, such as FieldTurf, pose no threat to comfort or safety. In fact, FieldTurf has been tested and is proven to be the safest of all surfaces; including natural grass!

  5. sean adelsohn

     /  July 29, 2008

    In light of the recent press surrounding “dangers of artificial turf”, we at FieldTurf have compiled a comprehensive review of the facts which confirm the safety of the FieldTurf artificial turf system. I urge you to review them at http://www.fieldturf.com/leadissues/
    Sincerely,
    Sean Adelsohn
    FieldTurf

  1. Expert Doctor on Children’s Health Raises Alarm on Synthetic Turf - What will it take to reach Parks Commissioner Benepe? « Washington Square Park
  2. On Artificial Turf – « Washington Square Park

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