NY Daily News reports “Lead in [artificial] turf shuts East Harlem field”

You know that artificial turf that Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has advocated for and previously wouldn’t consider had any problems, to the point where it’s been installed in over 90 ballfields and parks across New York City? This despite the fact that in New Jersey they closed two ball fields when high levels of lead were found. Well, now those same high levels have been found in a field in East Harlem and it’s been closed, according to today’s New York Daily News.

Frank Lombardi reports:

An East soccer field has been closed after elevated lead levels were detected in the synthetic turf installed five years ago, park officials said Monday.

The exact cause of the lead contamination at Thomas Jefferson Park, at First Ave. and E. 113th St., is not known, according to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

But Geoffrey Croft, a park advocate and frequent critic, blamed the lead contamination on the city’s use of a type of synthetic turf that includes a cushion of pulverized tires, known as crumb-rubber infill.

There’s this reassuring comment from the Assistant Commissioner Nancy Clark, “health effects from previous exposures are unlikely.” Right. Lead exposure can cause brain damage and other illnesses.

However, even after being alerted to the two fields in New Jersey being closed back in April, Parks Commissioner Benepe was quoted in Metro: “There’s no doubt in my mind it’s safe.”

Tell me why we are entrusting our city’s natural parks, public spaces, environment and wildlife to this public official’s control. There is no other way to say it. While I believe that the Parks Commissioner is ultimately under direction from Mayor Bloomberg and has too minimal a budget to work with, there are just too many questionable statements and actions to feel comfortable with his leadership of the parks in our city.  (What’s happened at Washington Square Parkthe manipulations, the lack of transparency … – alone would cause most anyone to want a new person in charge.) Which leads me to wonder…

Why should we trust the Parks Department (and Commissioner Benepe) when they say there is some new version of artificial turf to be used in Washington Square Park, and other locations across New York City, that’s “not infill rubber,” that’s better?