East Orange, NJ — Residents near a small neighborhood park in New Jersey woke up to the roar of heavy machinery earlier this month.
Then they knew the details.
Fields and more than 12 trees lined with Colombian Park in East Orange, a dense city in northern New Jersey, were covered with bulldozers to give way to artificial turf soccer and baseball stadiums and rubberized running tracks. .. The plan also requires a playground and fixed exercise equipment, as well as 40 new saplings.
Many of the nearby residents whose gardens are directly adjacent to the park are furious and responders to more and more towns across states and countries trying to prevent the use of products that were once coveted as an all-weather alternative. Joined. For grass fields that are difficult to maintain.
Elsewhere in New Jersey, similar battles are taking place over grass fields in Maplewood, Westfield, and Princeton.
Some towns in Connecticut have banned turf using so-called clam rubber made from recycled automobile tires, fearing the potential presence of chemicals that could pose a health risk.
Artificial turf also fuels concerns about injury. The sexist proceedings objected to requiring members of the US Women’s Soccer National Team to play on a regular basis. (Elite international men’s soccer matches are played almost exclusively on the grass.)
After the wreckage of Hurricane Aida unleashes widespread flash floods and kills more than any other state in New Jersey, arguments against eliminating absorbent grasslands like Colombian Park add new urgency. I got it. President Biden must warn of visits to the devastated towns of the region and respond to new realities. It’s a warmer future with more frequent and intense storms.
“It was messed up here,” said Marjorie Perry, a developer and builder living in East Orange, about Arashi. “It looked like Niagara Falls.”
“We need to cultivate or maintain green space,” she added. “Otherwise, the flood will be a normal recurrence.”
Residents of East Orange, who oppose the removal of grass and trees from Colombian Park, find that installing lawns raises heat levels in the neighborhood, causing floods and chemicals that can harm people’s health in the air. He said he was worried that it might be added to.
“If you replace natural turf with artificial turf and cut down healthy old trees to remove the only green space, you’ll have a’heat island’,” said an online petition signed by more than 250 people as of Friday.
City officials defend the decision to use artificial turf, improve dilapidated parks, increase access to residents of all ages, and eliminate the annual cost of maintaining lawns. He said it was a safe and cost effective method.
“My administration has promised to turn the park into a state-of-the-art green space and playground,” Mayor Ted R. Green said in a statement. “We consulted with key experts in this area and our park plan was finalized to follow the best practices of the park, with the health and safety of children as our top priority.”
Evidence of the risks that artificial turf can pose is not conclusive.
In 2007, Columbia University climate researchers found that artificial turf in New York City was up to 60 degrees higher than grass, with surface temperatures reaching 160 degrees on summer days.
Approximately 10 years later, the Environmental Protection Agency began researching artificial turf made from crumb rubber fillings, limiting human exposure “based on what is released into the air” “while the chemicals are present.” It looks like it has been done. “
However, authorities admitted that the findings were incomplete and told three senators, Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, and Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut, more in last year’s federal budget. He urged him to complete the evaluation for funding.
“Communities and parents deserve to know if the chemicals used in these products are synergistic and present at levels that pose a health risk,” said all Democratic senators. Is writing.
In East Orange, park director Dennis James said at least six of the 17 logging trees are dead or dead. The rest were removed due to the instability of the route system during the construction of the lawn field and potential safety risks, he said.
Authorities said the city was in the process of phased out all of the city’s natural grasslands.
Some residents who have homes near Colombian Park said they welcomed improvements in what they described as a long-ignored and underutilized park.
“We have begged them to do something in this park — begging,” said Lawrence Sweat, whose house backs up directly to the park. “There are some trees that should have fallen long ago.”
However, Daniel Spooner, who lives across the park and regularly walks his dog, said the city ignored the project’s environmental impact.
When a tree fell behind her on a recent weekday and had a huge impact on the entire block, Spooner wasn’t very clear about the loss of life for insects, milkweed, and birds, as well as the health hazards of the lawn. He said he was worried about the impact.
“Such things are very valuable,” said 31-year-old Spooner. “It just robs us of it. In fact, it feels like an attack.”
Many residents said they knew that the park would eventually be overhauled, but were unaware that lawns would be used and that too many trees would be logged.
Mayor spokeswoman Connie Jackson pointed out that park renovations, including lawn references, were discussed at a community meeting in February. Records show that the city council approved a $ 4.8 million construction contract in July.
However, many neighbors said that residents of 42 single-family homes and apartments adjacent to the park were not informed that the project was imminent or included the addition of lawns.
“There are no leaflets,” said Carter Mates, a former member of the city’s Open Space Advisory Board, whose backyard ends in a park. “I will not reach out. No information.”
East Orange, a city with a population of about 70,000, has been designated as an “overburdened community” by the state due to its 18% poverty rate and high proportion of ethnic minority residents. (According to the census, about 85% of residents are black and 11% are Latino.)
The Environmental Justice Act, signed a year ago by Governor Philip D. Murphy, aimed to protect areas that were already disproportionately damaged from pollution. The state environmental protection agency should consider existing public health burdens before granting permits in places tagged as overweight, such as East Orange.
Mates, who taught African-American literature at Rutgers University and started an online petition, said:
Sheila Y. Oliver, Deputy Governor of New Jersey, has been a longtime resident of East Orange. Her name adorns the front of a new $ 41 million elementary school next to the park.
The new park will not be managed by the school board, but school students will be allowed to use it, Jackson said. Oliver refused to comment on the park’s renovation.
Christopher Coke, who oversees the East Orange Water Department, said at a community meeting in February that improving parks is important in cities where “there aren’t many options for where young people can hang out.”