Heard At City Hall on Artificial Turf: “But Where Will the Tires Go?” … Mayor Bloomberg says this is “a made-up story”

According to a scrap tire recycler who spoke at the New York City Council hearing on artificial turf and rubber “safety surface” mats yesterday at City Hall, 13% of all scrap tires in New York State are used to create artificial turf. If the City Council passes a bill placing a moratorium on “crumb rubber” Turf installations in the city – which is what is being proposed – the speaker asked, “Where will the tires that would have gone to the process… where will they go?”

Now, yes, it’s true that this is technically reuse, one of the environmental tenets, and recycling, but I think that there are other environmental as well as serious health concerns that need to take precedence. They’ll find markets for the tires or find a way to dispose of them responsibly. The issue here is there are too many unknowns and a bunch of frightening knowns. Lead, cadmium, and other chemicals are in these materials. Children should not be exposed to these chemicals. The turf fields get way too hot (165 degrees on a hot day). And we just don’t know how they impact any of us, much less the birds and wildlife, dogs and other animals in our parks and public spaces.

In a city with limited green space, should we be limiting our connection with nature? The allure, the smell of, the interaction with freshly cut grass? The imperfections and uniqueness of walking and playing on fresh grass vs. a lifeless artificial surface?

Then, there’s Mayor Bloomberg.

In today’s New York Daily News (and… is it me, or does he just get MORE. ARROGANT. EVERY. DAY. ?), our CEO Mayor “blasted the controversy yesterday as ‘a made-up story’ and fumed that ‘the real risk is [in] not getting the kids to the park’ to exercise and avoid obesity.”

Right. That’s the real risk. (See 2nd paragraph.) What about giving the Parks Department an adequate budget so they could hire workers to take care of our Parks properly? Instead of giving money endlessly to corporate interests (and, believe me, the “field turf” industry was out in force at the City Council hearing), what about giving it to our city workers? Bolstering our city that way? In the last 20 years, the number of NYC Parks Department workers has been cut by 66%.

First Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanaugh told the Council that it costs $800,000-$1 million to install an artificial turf field. It costs $300,000 to $400,000 to install a natural grass field. It costs $14,000 a year to maintain a natural turf field. No figure was given for the cost to maintain an artificial turf field which needs to be replaced every ten years.

The math does not add up. How is this benefiting the city economically? Why can’t we use natural grass and hire workers to maintain it (without pesticides and herbicides)? What is wrong with this picture?

Note: I am not advocating for any artificial turf, with or without “crumb rubber.” No one knows enough about any of these materials. We need to go back to grass and dirt and work with the natural environment. I certainly don’t think artificial turf is needed at Washington Square Park around the Mounds – which is where it is being proposed.

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3 Comments

  1. Vizkaino

     /  May 5, 2009

    Hi, what is the latest news on the Moratorium on the issue of toxic artificial turf fields in our NYC communities? After I attended the hearing at City Hall on 2/9/09 I have not heard of this issue again in the news.

  2. Hi Im Lisa, from Rancho Santa Margarita, near Mission Viejo. I am not against the use of natural grass but I just want to add the benefit of Artificial grass, unlike natural grass that must be watered regularly, requiring costly sprinkler systems, artificial grass maintains itself with its internal drainage systems. Cities and school districts will also save money on water and power expenses, as well as conserving precious environmental resources. Artificial turf/grass has various texture or type to offer. Thanks and blessings!

  3. Do we really want to pave over (or turf over) every bit of natural grass so that our city more and more resembles the planet Trantnor in Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy?

    But aside from aesthetics, what happens, say, when artificial turf is sprayed with pesticides, as the City is doing to our neighborhoods all over Brooklyn and Queens this summer? I’ve read reports where the pesticides would just sit there in little pools, waiting to poison the next round of kids that comes splashing along.

    Additionally, artificial turf is harmful to muscles and joints. There’s a reason why Joe Girardi sometimes benches his older players when the Yankees visit synthetic turf stadiums. There are also problems with heat radiating off the turf, proximity to salt water, and many other hazards that are not figured into the price.

    The ONLY reason given for artificial turfing our fields was that soccer chews up the natural-grass fields, especially when players are wearing cleats. However, one manager of a field told me privately that he has all the players at the end of the day re-seeding the natural grass (takes 10 minutes sprinkling seeds) and it’s good to go in a few days.

    There are NO financial benefits to artificial turf (except to the corporations manufacturing it) and many, many negatives.

    Mitchel Cohen
    Brooklyn Greens/Green Party

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