Friday, January 15, 2010

RIOC Approves Artificial Turf For Roosevelt Island's Octagon Field - Zog Sports Asked For Opinion But Not Youth Center

Image of muddy field from fjny is not of Roosevelt Island playing fields but could be.

There is no question that the Octagon Playing Field is a great big pile of mud when it rains. To alleviate this problem RIOC has been considering the use of an artificial turf surface for Octagon and other playing fields for the last several years but had put on hold any decision until safety questions had been adequately addressed.

During the January 12 RIOC Board of Directors Operations Committee Meeting (web cast here), RIOC President Steve Shane and VP Of Operations Fernando Martinez stated that the safety questions had been resolved by the NYC Parks department and recommended that the Board approve the purchase and installation of an artificial turf surface for Roosevelt Island's Octagon Playing Field. Mr. Shane asked the Operations Committee for its approval so that the purchase could be voted at during the January Board of Directors Meeting on Thursday January 14. Several Board members present at the Operations Committee meeting raised concerns that they were being asked to approve this item without adequate time for the Board members to responsibly review it's advantages and disadvantages.

Mr. Shane explained that the artificial turf proposal has been reviewed by RIOC staff for at least a year and that it would be beneficial to approve the item at the Operations's Committee meeting so that, upon approval by the full Board on January 14, the artificial turf can be installed by the end of May. If the Directors decided to wait for the following February Board meeting the artificial turf would not be ready for use until July.

Directors also were concerned whether Roosevelt Island residents who actually use the field were consulted on the use of this particular type of artificial turf such as the Youth Center Director. Mr. Shane explained that residents were consulted about the use of artificial turf but after being pressed by the Directors acknowledged that the Youth Center was not consulted on this particular type of artificial turf although non- Roosevelt Island residents such as the Corportate Zog League were consulted and approved of this type of turf.

RIRA Island Services Committee Chairperson Aaron Hamburger attended the Operations Committe Meeting and held up a sample of the artificial turf.

The subject was addressed during the RIRA Town Hall Meeting on RIOC' January Board Agenda. RIRA President Frank Farance expressed his concerns:

Based upon yesterday's RIRA town hall meeting, I have several important concerns regarding the plan to immediately spend approximately $1.8 million on the turf for Octagon field.

1. Yesterday, by request of a RIOC board member, I contacted Charlie DeFino of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program to get his opinion. He said:

- The artificial turf is *not* the same one Steve Shane showed him previously.
- The sample provided to him by Donna Masly ripped easily.
- This artificial turn is not the one used by the city parks department nor the one used by the PSAL (sp?), which are the two main turfs.
- He said that Octagon field should be made into a multi-use field, such as soccer, baseball, etc. whereas the present RIOC plan is only for single purpose. (Note: The "pony" field just north of Octagon field is not usable for baseball for older kids/adults because they right field is very very short. Having one or two baseball fields on Octagon field would allow for more use.)
- He also expressed concern about spending $1.8 million when there are many other worthy items on the Island. ("$1.8 million would pay for youth services for all the Island's kids for [10-20 years]")

2. RIOC board members expressed concern about (yet again) having received information last minute. They complained: "We don't even know the name of the material [because we've be given so little information]". They also said that it might have been possible to give information about this months ago. They also complained that other significant board actions, such as the recent FDR memorial, they were only given information an hour before the meeting.

3. The usability of this artificial turf (and artificial turf in general) is in question. The community will be stuck with this surface for at least 10 years. RIOC board members told us that children, just to use the field, will require special equipment such as knee pads (so they don't get burned) and different shoes (so they don't ruin the field). RIOC board members say that cleats are prohibited on this kind of field, yet cleats are required for soccer games. As all the children learned this fall, no cleats and the officials with throw you out of the game. Really, this doesn't make any sense: one field the kids play with one kind of equipment, another field they play with a different of equipment. There seem to be a variety of hazards on artificial turf (burns, razor cuts, etc.) that were discussed last night -- this needs to be better socialized with the community because most of the RIOC board members are *not* actual users of that field. Board members state that the vendor has installed this turf in some other parks -- I strongly recommend that actual residents evaluate the playability and the safety of this kind of material, especially for youth players.

4. The need for an artificial turf is in question. The Octagon Field is used, on average, about 10-15 hours a week (according to RIOC's numbers). That's a relatively low usage. The real problem with Octagon field is the drainage problem. Regardless or whether one chooses real or artificial turf, the drainage problem has to be solved.

5. The RIOC financial analysis on this is oversimplified and improper. In short, RIOC says that the lifetime of the field is about 10-12 years, the field costs about $1.8 million, and RIOC takes in approximately $100,000 in revenue. At last night's meeting, we also learned that RIOC spends about $100,000 annually in maintenance on the field. The improper aspect of this analysis is merely looking at the revenue when one should be looking at the net profit. It's the net profit that one looks at concerning an investment because the net profit is what pays for the investment. RIOC does not quantify the maintenance (which still exists on top of one-time costs) and doesn't quantify the additional liability cost of the expected increase injuries on the field.

6. Lastly, while this is within the domain of RIOC governance, the whole idea of last-minute notification is very poor for decision-making. This appears to be an ongoing problem for the RIOC board. Directors have said: the best we can do is stop the contract once it's started. This is poor decision-making and increases the momentum of poor decisions. This is unacceptable to Roosevelt Island residents.

Although there might be some perceived urgency in getting this project started for this year's use, I recommend that the RIOC board split the effort into two pieces. The first piece is the repair of the field, regardless of which turf is used. The second piece is the choice of the turf, which does not have to be chosen today, but can be done a month or two from now when the RIOC board and the community have been information on this kind of artificial turf. I also recommend that the RIRA Island Services Committee (which had the same short notice) and RIRA Planning Committee be engaged in evaluation of this effort
RIOC President Steve Shane responds:
As I indicated at this AM's Board meeting, with all due deference to RIRA and Mr. Farance, this matter has been the subject of more than 2 years of investigation and attention. The Operations Committee fully reviewed the matter Tuesday evening and the Board approved it today.
Meet the new Octagon Playing Field Artificial Turf.

RIOC's January Board of Directors Meeting is available as a webcast here.


mushr00m said...

Grass is wonderful, this is a no-brainer. Octagon and Firefighters fields are disasters. And dangerous. This letter is full of ridiculous assumptions. And I don't understand how one can claim lack of notice when this has been known to be under discussion for over a year.

Anonymous said...

What's so hard about saying the names of the type of turf that RIOC is buying?

Is it AstroPlay?

Is it FieldTurf?

What's the turf type? Nobody for RIRA or the Youth Center should be commenting without knowing what they're talking about.

Ken Ilchuk said...

There are a lot of general misconceptions about synthetic turf in Mr. Farance's arguments. Most recent generation fields have passed numerous testing standards for coarseness and abrasiveness, as well as lead levels in yarns, and health concerns with regard to the infill elements in this fields. All of these concerns have been addressed within the industry. This is not your father's astroturf.

With that being said, there is a company based on Long Island that has gone to great lengths to promote safety, durability, and maintenance of these types of fields. They manufacture a high quality product that passed industry tear tests with flying colors. I would encourage Mr. Farance and Mr. Shane to check them out at They have also met with the NYC Parks Department and they are familiar with their products and services.

Anonymous said...

This article appeared in the Metro last summer regarding artificial turf:

Fake turf heat alert

City posts warnings of health risks to those playing on scorching fields

by patrick arden / metro new york

JUL 9, 2008
Children swarmed the artificial-turf soccer field at Asphalt Green yesterday, but a sign at the gate might have raised a red flag for their parents.

Metro measured 165.5 degrees on an artificial turf field in Brooklyn, on June 14. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)

“This field can get hot on warm, sunny days,” said the posting by the city’s Parks Department.

“If you experience symptoms of heat-related illness, such as dizziness, weakness, headache, vomiting, or muscle cramps, move to a shaded area. Drink water, rest, and seek medical attention if you do not feel better.”

This sign will soon appear at all of the city’s 94 artificial turf fields — as well as at the 68 fields planned for the future — to warn the public about the risks of overheating and dehydration.

After a decade of installing artificial turf, the city’s Parks Department is finally acknowledging what’s long been known: Fake grass get hot.

One day last month, the artificial turf at Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza was 165.5 degrees, while a nearby plot of grass measured just 83 degrees. Waves of heat rose from the field.

“It’s outrageous,” said Josh Srebnick, a pediatric neuropsychologist who was playing with his five-year-old son, Jake.

One study cited by the Health Department in a recent report on the turf said, “At temperatures above 120 degrees, it only takes 3 seconds to burn a child’s skin severely enough to require surgery.”

The Parks Department has never taken surface temperatures, but this summer it will begin to conduct its own tests of “air quality” on hot days, said a spokesperson. It’s also “exploring” alternatives to rubber-infill turf “to make fields cooler.”

Watchdog group NYC Park Advocates has discovered the carpet-style alternative gets as hot as 160 degrees.

“At temperatures of 120 degrees, it only takes 3 seconds to burn a child’s skin severely enough to require surgery.”
Health Department report

Anonymous said...

I think this Zog Sports should pay the price. Why should Roosevelt Island pay $1.8 m for some artificial grass? Don't we have some other needs for this money which will benefit our residents, not rich visitors?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I've never seen Frank Farance or Aaron Hamburger on the Octogon Field, so why are we listening to them. The Field is a disaster waiting to happen and the studies have shown that all the new parks in NYC are getting Turf Fields. Let the people who get paid to research & study this stuff do their jobs. Do we have to grump about everything?