Volume 19 Issue 44 | March 16 - 22, 2007


Grass is greener but turf is better for B.P.C.

In a Platonic Lower Manhattan, it seldom rains and kids play baseball with mud-free fields while parents and passersby enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass and the sound of the crack of the bat. In the real world of Battery Park City, the ballfields are often riddled with puddles and brown patches, take too long to recuperate from the rain and are unsafe compared to synthetic FieldTurf.

We’ll leave aside the City Council’s metal bat debate, but on the question of field surface, the Battery Park City Authority should announce now that they will replace the grass fields in a reasonable time period.

We understand the authority’s desire for the pesticide-free grass fields. The natural grass meets the state agency’s model environmental guidelines, which have received well-deserved international praise. In the neighborhood’s parks and gardens, composting is the rule and no chemicals are used on the lawns or plants. B.P.C.’s newest buildings have numerous energy and water conservation features. The Solaire was the world’s first green or LEED-certified high-rise, residential building and its success has helped popularize the green construction movement.

It is not easy not being green, but the fields will need to be rebuilt soon anyway. The Downtown Little and Soccer Leagues have made a compelling case for switching to turf and we agree.

Injuries like “turf toe” are relics of the past. The new turf is safe, and without a doubt it’s safer than the B.P.C. fields were this past rainy soccer season.

The fields have not been able to withstand the pounding of 1,400 or so cleats every week during the baseball and soccer seasons. Throw in the practices, the corporate leagues, the day camps, the cheering parents and the burrowing younger siblings and something’s gotta give. The fields are closed five months a year and are not strong enough to stay open every day during the sports seasons. There were too many days when turf fields around the city were open last fall and the B.P.C. fields were closed.

As tough as it is now to get the grass ready it will likely get worse with time. More people continue to move Downtown, increasing the demand on the fields. The leagues report the shade that will come from the Goldman Sachs building under construction nearby will put further strains on the grass’s ability to grow. The skilled horticulturalists at the B.P.C. Parks Conservancy have done all they can to maximize playing time, but they’re not alchemists.

With the pending construction of two residential projects, the authority is planning to cut the field’s size during construction. The Little League may be able to play on the same-sized space this season, but this fall and next spring, both leagues will likely have less space.

Jim Cavanaugh, the authority’s president, told us several weeks ago that in a year or two, he is willing to reopen the turf debate the authority closed last year. We’re pleased to see slight movement, but he should not make Downtown kids play through two years of construction before they get some good news.

Why not announce turf fields are coming on April 14, the Downtown Little League’s Opening Day? It’ll be the biggest hit of the season.

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