Thursday, September 22, 2011

Koppell pledges a brighter future for Seton and Ewen parks

Should Seton Park be
natural or artificial grass?
Here's a story from this week's Riverdale Review. Enjoy.

By Brendan McHugh 

Seton Park’s soccer field is getting a makeover, but whether the pitch will be natural or artificial is up to the community.

City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, who has slated $900,000 for the park’s refurbishment, toured Seton Park with a handful of community members last month and found a number of issues with the field.

“It’s not in good shape,” he said, noting the puddles that form because of drainage issues. “But in order to do all of Seton Park, it’d be like $2 million dollars.”

So Koppell has put forth the largest allocation of funds toward the park to reconstruct the field, which will also fix the drainage issues and clear out embedded rocks and other debris.

Jump below for the rest of the story, including Ewen Park news at the bottom.

“There’s some dispute as to exactly what should be done where and there is considerable difference of opinion,” he said. “Should it be artificial turf or grass? I don’t want to make those decisions. Let the community board and local residents come together and make the decision.”

According to Koppell’s office, a number of different youth sports groups are split over which type of surface to use. Though in recent weeks, they’ve received more support for natural grass than artificial.

“The infield area is OK,” said Ray Norberto, a coach in the South Riverdale Little League. “But too much turf isn’t good.”

He did joke that, “the kids will play on concrete,” but the negative issues with artificial turf outweigh the benefits.

“As a public space, turf keeps the heat,” he said. “During games in May and June, that turf, after 12 o’clock, it’s hot.”

Other concerns that have so far been pointed out to Koppell’s office include latex allergy, chemical exposure and injuries to knees, hips and other joints.

Community Board 8 parks committee chairman Bob Bender said he hopes to hold a meeting in that area in hopes of generating a consensus opinion. The park is on the corner of Independence Avenue and W. 232nd Street, across from the Whitehall.

There are pros and cons to each type of surface. While natural grass would be cheaper initially, maintenance over the long run would eventually surpass a synthetic field. Also, there is never a guarantee that the new grass and drainage work will suffice, and the park could still face the same problems in a few years.

Over the last few years, Seton Park’s field has had over $2 million put into it, yet flooding issues still remain.

According to the parks department, park users in the city have been known to overuse artificial turf, leading to wear and literal tear. Since the synthetic material, where the grass is a plastic material and the soil is crunched up rubber, can be used almost immediately after a rain and also during the winter when snow is removed, the field cannot always handle the amount of use it gets.

Typically, however, the fields that end up wearing down and tearing are in higher density neighborhoods than Riverdale, but that is not always the case. Norberto pointed out that Seton Park is one of the biggest parks in the Riverdale/Kingsbridge area. 

Ewen Park neighbors want a playground 

Koppell also toured Ewen Park with community members, and at the parks committee meeting last week, Adele Finer Rabin laid out of list of recommendations for the park on behalf of shareholders of 511 W. 232nd Street.

The recommendations include both short-term and long-term actions. Some of the short-term recommendations include solving safety issues, such as fixing sinkholes, removing fallen trees, repave the sidewalks, and build a playground.

Koppell is planning to allocate $750,000 towards the park.

Rabin said the park was “lush” when she first moved in a decade ago, but since then, erosion from water runoff has destroyed the grass in the park.

She also added that the local families feel as though they have no local playground for their children. The nearest playground is Maclaughlin Park on Greystone Avenue, a half-mile away. According to Rabin, there are 29 children under the age of 10 in 511 W. 232nd Street who would use the playground daily.

Koppell said he couldn’t fund the playground this year, saying he has already committed the funds to repairing the basketball courts, but next year her and her community should ask for a playground. In the meantime though, his office will try to work with the departments of parks and environmental protection to solve the drainage issues that are creating sinkholes. Both departments say the other one must fix the problem.

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