Volume 22, Number 19 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 18 - 24, 2009

Downtown Express photo by Julie Shapiro

TheTweed schoolyard in City Hall Park is mostly dirt. The city promised to fix it up soon.

Getting out of Tweed schoolyard mud

The city agreed this week to fix up a muddy expanse outside Tweed Courthouse so children at the two elementary schools there will have a safer place to play.

“Right now, the kids are playing on dirt,” said Nancy Harris, principal of the Spruce Street School.

Spruce and P.S. 276 both opened kindergarten classes last week in Tweed, where one of the amenities was supposed to be an artificial turf field on the northeast lawn of City Hall Park. The Parks Dept. has been promising to put down artificial turf there for years, because the lawn is heavily used and the trees that shade it prevent grass from growing.

When the turf did not arrive as promised, parents at the two new schools brought their complaints to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who helped secure the temporary school space at Tweed for this fall.

“The poor condition on that lawn area needs a pretty immediate remediation,” Silver said Monday at a meeting of his overcrowding taskforce. “Especially after all that rain, it’s less than ideal.”

Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro attended the meeting and said he would find a solution, but it would more likely be sod rather than artificial turf. A turf field would require a lengthy design and contracting process, which the city has not yet begun, so the turf could not be installed until at least February, Castro said. Sod, on the other hand, could arrive within a couple weeks.

“The plan is to address this one way or another immediately,” Castro said.

Castro expects sod (carpet-like rolls of grass) to hold up better than regular grass in the shady section of the park that now has only dirt. If the sod does not work, the city could still install an artificial turf field later, he said.

The Parks Dept. most recently promised in July 2008 to install turf on the lawn, but Castro said he could not have moved faster on it because Community Board 1 did not approve the proposal until March 2009.

A third option for the lawn would be to spread a natural material, similar to woodchips, which could also be done quickly. Castro said he would make a decision this week.

Harris said she did not have a preference among the alternatives.

“The right alternative is the one that allows kids to play safely — the sooner the better,” she said.

Learan Kahanov, a Spruce Street parent, said some parents expressed concerns about the safety of artificial turf, so sod could be a better choice, especially since it would come online sooner.

“It would be nice for them to have something softer to fall on,” he said.

— Julie Shapiro




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