From Where I Sit

0:00 Slow the Nursery Field Artificial Turf Project It’s time to pump the brakes on plans to put artificial turf on Nursery Field. The outgoing […]

Published December 14, 2023 5:09 PM
4 min read

0:00

Slow the Nursery Field Artificial Turf Project

It’s time to pump the brakes on plans to put artificial turf on Nursery Field.

The outgoing 4-3 majority on the Rye City Council appears eager to push the project through before they lose control of the Council next month. 

At their meeting on Dec. 6, the Council voted to appropriate up to $100,000 more to complete construction plans (the total spent so far is $390,000), put the artificial turf project out to bid, and accept a bid if pledged donations come through.

If the Council uses an expedited bidding process, it could sign contracts that commit the City to the project before the new Council is sworn in on Jan. 1. 

That may be savvy politics, but it’s not sound decision making. 

The incoming Council majority, recently elected and highly critical of how the outgoing coalition has conducted City business, should look at the matter afresh. There are simply too many unanswered questions about the wisdom of the project. 

Loving parents in the community are rightly concerned there aren’t enough sports fields for kids who want to play soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey. Nursery Field has provided additional field time, but its use is limited because it’s built on hard earth that doesn’t drain well. When it rains, the field can’t be used for a few days. And the field has to be fixed and re-seeded in the spring and fall – just when it’s needed most. 

Everyone on the Council would like to find additional field space. And the outgoing Council majority coalition – and the consultants they have hired – have concluded that artificial turf on Nursery Field is the way to go. 

But when just about every environmental and historical society in town and the surrounding area says that putting artificial turf on Nursery Field is a bad idea, it’s time to slow down. Those groups are concerned about the impact of artificial turf on the environment, flooding, and the city’s historical homes and artifacts. 

Yes, we want more field space — but at what price?

The mayor’s coalition and artificial turf advocates in town point to studies by consultants hired by the City at the direction of the Council concluding that the project would not pose environmental or flooding risks. But it’s never surprising when consultants agree with those who have hired them.

In fact, the Council’s lead consultant on the project – who weighed the pros and cons of grass versus synthetic turf — has been an officer of the Synthetic Turf Council, a group whose mission is to “lead, educate, and advocate for the synthetic turf industry.” On Dec. 6, the Council introduced another expert to answer questions about synthetic turf, and he too is affiliated with the Synthetic Turf Council, as an advisor. 

Here are some of the local groups opposed to artificial turf at Nursery Field: 

• The Federated Conserva-tionists of Westchester County.

• The Westchester Land Trust

• Save the Sound

• Rye Sustainability Committee

• The Jay Heritage Center

• The National Audubon Society

• The Westchester Historical Society.

• Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. 

• Rye’s Conservation Commission Advisory Council.

• The Rye Historical Society 

Another study commissioned by an earlier City Council concluded that Nursery Field would be the worst possible place in Rye to put artificial turf. 

We are blessed in Rye to have so many knowledgeable and talented people willing to serve on the boards of our non-profits. The goal of those organizations is to make Rye and our surrounding communities better and safer places.

Are we really going to just ignore them? 

In addition, Friends of Nursery Field, a group opposed to the artificial turf project, says it has a petition with 522 signatures. The local group advocating for artificial turf, Let the Kids Play, says it has more than 500 members.

There are other concerns about artificial turf that the Council has barely considered, because of the larger environmental and flooding questions. There is evidence that artificial turf causes more injuries to athletes. It leaves “micro plastics” on shoes. It generates surface heat. And the City has not studied the potential impact of the project on traffic in the area. 

Then there’s the cost; residents advocating for synthetic turf have pledged to pay for the project, and they may come through. But the city would still be on the hook for the cost of maintaining and replacing the field when it breaks down.  

The incoming City Council majority takes over in a few weeks. Four of its seven members – two current and two new members — have pledged to change how the City is governed, to make sure all matters before the Council are thoroughly discussed and considered, and the entire community is involved in the process. 

We hope that new Council will consider other options for Nursery Field, like fixing the drainage and keeping the field grass. There is technology to improve drainage, and that may be cheaper. Perhaps improved drainage on a grass field is not the perfect solution, but it may be the best option and a good compromise. 

Despite pressure to act now – and offers of private money for artificial turf — the Council should explore the options in much greater depth and create a plan that’s best for the long-term health and safety of the community.

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