Volume 17 • Issue 30 | Dec. 17 - 23, 2004

Getting the fields at Pier 40 ready

By Judith Stiles

It is too late in the soccer season to plant more grass or spruce up the Battery Park City ballfields. This baseball and soccer field is a muddy mess and has been closed and locked up since Thanksgiving. At this time of year, at Highbury Stadium on the famous grass soccer pitch in north London you might see a few lads run onto the field at halftime with pitchforks for field maintenance, stabbing into the grass hither and thither for the purpose of aerating the field. However, grass fields are becoming a thing of the past in New York City, so you won’t see lads with pitchforks anywhere near the beautiful new turf fields at Pier 40.

Instead you might see Steven Bush from the Carpetlayers Local Union 2287 driving his Laymore machine back and forth on the bright green turf to add a few finishing touches before the field opens for use in January 2005.

“The Laymore is a great machine. It is similar to a salt blower and a steamroller,” says Bush as he animatedly describes how it works. “It releases a sand-and-rubber mixture into the carpet and then presses it deep into the fibers,” he adds, demonstrating with a sprinkle of black rubber bits between the palms of his hands. Every square foot of turf holds 7 pounds of rubber pressed within the carpet, which takes about 17 passes with the Laymore machine. Brushes underneath the Laymore also help distribute the black granules which are actually recycled automobile and truck tires that have been ground up. (Ever wonder about those little black grains that come home in the crannies of soccer and baseball uniforms, messing up your laundry?) The new turf surfaces for the ball fields and the passive recreation area on the upper level of Pier 40 used over 150 bags of rubber granules, each bag weighing about 2,000 pounds.

With craftsman-like attentiveness Steven Bush has carefully overseen the turf laying process from A to Z. “Because our union installed the fields correctly, some of the first fields we did are still in good shape after 13 years, requiring a lot less maintenance than grass fields,” Bush proudly adds.

Called Field Turf, the surface has fibers 2 ?-3 inches high and is fabricated in carpet-like rolls that are 300 feet long by 15 feet wide. The rolls are laid out in strips on top of layers of aggregate rock and bluestone that include a sophisticated drainage system for overflow of rainwater. Each roll of turf has a salvage edge of cloth where a roll of turf is stitched to an adjacent roll with a sewing machine-like tool. As with a seam in a dress, the stitching is done on the underside and when completed, the turf sheets are unfolded, with the turf facing up and the stitching hidden. Next, stretching machines pull the turf strips tight, readying them for nailing and sometimes glueing around the edges of the field.

The new Pier 40 now has 12 state-of-the-art stadium lights, dugouts for baseball, two artificial turf baseball diamonds — Little League and regulation size — as well as lines for two full-size soccer fields, creating beautiful multi-use fields.

Steven Bush and his co-workers are now busy working on the 25,560-square-foot passive recreation area on the top level of Pier 40 that will have potted trees, bushes and park benches where people can relax and enjoy the treetop view of boats cruising up and down the river. For those who are sentimental about the “old” artificial turf field on the roof at Pier 40, it will only be closed temporarily for refurbishing, and by spring it will be back in action.

Star soccer player Simone Russo, who will graduate from high school in the spring, vividly remembers her first games played for Downtown United Soccer Club on the dirt field at J.J. Walker on Hudson St. Since those days, J.J. Walker, Chelsea Waterside Park and Pier 40 at the end of W. Houston St. have all gotten undersized turf fields. Artificial turf in Lower Manhattan is here to stay, and now finally — with the new Pier 40 courtyard field — there will be regulation-size fields. Now neighborhoods kids can play ball on beautiful fields all year. And for residents who prefer relaxing in Pier 40’s rooftop passive recreation area, they can occasionally take a peek at the games down in the courtyard and feel good that those kids are playing ball instead of loafing at home playing video games or watching the boob tube.

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