Chelsea Now Weekly Uncovers the Real Dirt on Artificial Turf; Turf Scheduled for the Mounds at WSP in Phase III

Chelsea Now has a great story about artificial turf in this week’s issue. Washington Square Park is scheduled to get artificial turf at the base of the Mounds (now scheduled for Phase III construction), despite the fact that pretty much everyone is against it.

Excerpts from Chelsea Now article: Hot Footing It: The heat is on artificial turf August 24, 2011

As reported in the March article, Geoffrey Croft (head of the watchdog group, NYC Park Advocates) took, before noon, temperature readings at a dozen New York City parks in July 2010. Artificial turf fields measured over 170 degrees — the highest temperature recorded in his three years of monitoring. By 9:15am, the temperature had already risen to over 140 degrees. “Young children are particularly susceptible, as it can take only two seconds to burn on solid surfaces greater than 140 degrees, according to doctors,” said Croft. …

… “for ten years, the city put down this surface without doing a single test,” said Croft. Patrick Arden, in his article on the dangers of artificial turf, wrote, “Several credible studies had found the crumb rubber contains known human carcinogens and neurotoxic chemicals, as well as lead, chromium and arsenic” (City Limits magazine, “Was New York City’s Shift to Artificial Grass a 300-Million-Dollar Mistake? A Risky Play,” September 2010).

Through the Freedom of Information Act, Arden ascertained that a group of doctors at Mt. Sinai Hospital identified several “proven and potential” hazards of synthetic turf made from recycled tires: “excessive heat,” with field temperatures reaching as high as 172 degrees; MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant staph infection that can be acquired through “turf burns;” and chemical exposures.

The Astroturf-style carpet at Chelsea Park and the crumb rubber infill turf at J.J. Walker were both cited for elevated lead levels.  …

According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website’s “Fact Sheet on Synthetic Turf Used in Athletic Fields and Play Areas,” the city is now using “carpet-style or alternative infill materials on all new fields, and implementing protocols to inspect, test and replace any existing synthetic turf fields that may age or deteriorate.” They are “using strict purchasing protocols to select the best synthetic turf products and requiring suppliers to provide information on chemical content, heating absorbency properties, environmental factors and health and safety issues.”

“We forced the city to stop using recycled tires,” said Croft. “City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, introduced a few bills that really helped. It was a first step. Up to then, Adrian Benepe [the Parks Commissioner] made fun of it.” …

I am sure part of the reason is maintenance related, but to me that is not a solution,” said Viverito, “and I don’t buy it half the time.” She pointed out that in the “vast parks system” less than .03 percent goes to parks. “If it is the intent to have a park where people can hang out, when the turf can reach past 130 degrees, this is not a good idea. It is counterproductive to what a passive space is. You want to encourage people to come into the park, not turn them away.” …

Viverito declared, “We will continue to put pressure on this administration to do the right thing. It has worked sometimes. Other times they have put their heels to the ground and are resistant.

There’s much more at the article including quotes from athletes using the fields that are quite interesting!

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Previous on WSP Blog: Heard at City Council Hearings on Artificial Turf: “But Where Will the Tires go?”; Mayor Bloomberg says this is “a made-up story” February 10, 2009

NY City Council Committee to hold Parks Department Preliminary Budget 2011 Hearing Wednesday, March 24th — Agency Oversees 14% of City Land; Needs Larger Budget, Not Less

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Preliminary Budget for New York City Fiscal Year 2011 proposes decreasing the already way-too-low Parks Department Budget by $25 million — from $264 Million to $239 Million. This represents .37% of the City’s annual budget allocated to operate and maintain our city Parks, Recreation and open spaces. .37% of the budget dedicated to the City agency which oversees 14% of New York City land throughout the five boroughs is neglectful to our city open spaces and not forward thinking.

According to A Walk In the Park Blog, Mayor Bloomberg’s preliminary budget overall for 2011 is increased $560 Million from this year, yet he still insists on cutting the already decimated Parks Department budget. Our parks and open spaces cannot be properly and equitably maintained if the budget is so disproportionate to what is needed.

Since this is a preliminary budget, there is still time to weigh in at Wednesday’s 3/24 Parks Committee meeting at City Hall. There is a new chair of the Parks Committee in the NY City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and there is hope that some change will be seen.

In a previous post on WSP Blog, NYC Parks Dept.: 2/3 cuts in workers and endless privatization schemes,” I referenced statistics from New York Jobs With Justice which informed us that as of 2008, the Parks Department budget had been cut by 66% over (I believe) the last twenty years:

“Years ago, NYC’s public parks were administered by over 7,500 municipal employees of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Today, it’s only 2,500 municipal employees taking care of NYC’s public parks. [Note: the number may have fluctuated upward a small amount since 2008 but is now going back to around this # of workers.] This number continues to shrink as the years go by. Much of the labor has been privatized through city partnerships with non-profit administrators resulting in a two-tier work force of public servants in the City’s public parks.”

A large number of jobs are being cut and positions eliminated. This is one additional reason, as NY Jobs for Justice outlined above, why our parks and public spaces are being increasingly privatized.

Show your support for our Parks by speaking before the City Council Parks Committee this Wednesday, March 24th, 2 p.m., at City Hall Council Chambers on the 2nd floor.

Learn more at A Walk In the Park Blog.

** More details on the meeting from The New York City Council web site.