After years of neglect, the Parks Department has finally taken notice of Calvert Vaux Park (profiled in this article) and plans to make a number of changes. Some of these are most welcome, including proposed habitat creation on part of the 70-acre site. Unfortunately, the very first step, planned to start by the end of the month, is tearing up six of the soccer fields and replacing them with artificial turf. These fields provide feeding territory for killdeers, kestrels, American pipits, horned larks, and many other grassland birds; no studies have been done on how the artificial turf might affect them.
Not only is this move potentially bad for birds (and the plants and invertebrates they feed on), it's also likely to be bad for the park's other bipedal users. Artificial turf has been implicated in many injuries, both because it has less give than natural turf and because it absorbs more heat from the sun. On top of this, it increases storm-water runoff.
Despite all this, the Parks Department uses artificial turf widely; it requires less maintenance and requires less downtime between games. In this instance, the Parks Department has rejected calls to instead create additional fields to allow more playing time and the rest that the grass needs.
If you would like to express your concerns about artificial turf in Calvert Vaux Park:
Bill Tai, Director, Natural Resources Group,
City of New York Parks & Recreation
1234 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
bill.tai AT parks.nyc.gov
Adrian Benepe, Commissioner
City of New York, Dept of Parks & Recreation
The Arsenal at Central Park
830 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10021
adrian.benepe AT parks.nyc.gov
Suzanne Mattei, Regional Director
NYSDEC Region 2
1 Hunters Point Plaza
47-40 21st St.
Long Island City, NY 11101-5407
smmattei AT gw.dec.state.ny.us
Thanks to Ida Sanoff of the Natural Resources Protective Association for the contact information.