Tuesday, February 17, 2009

City Yields Ground on Crumb Rubber in Turf Wars by Frank Lombardi - NY Daily News

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Crumb rubber has hit the road in New York City.

The controversial material made from recycled tires will no longer be used in synthetic-turf fields for parks and schools, officials said yesterday. While insisting crumb rubber isn't toxic, the officials said they stopped using it because it overheats on hot days and could pose a health risk.

First Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh told a City Council panel that there's "no plan to replace crumb rubber" in all 95 existing fields. It will, however, be replaced as part of the normal 10-year renovation cycle.

The one exception is the soccer field at Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem, which was closed in December after tests found elevated levels of lead. "We believe it's most likely some external contamination," said Assistant Health Commissioner Nancy Clark.

Activists and some legislators, however, have called the fields potentially toxic and demanded removal, at an estimated cost of up to $1 million per field.

Mayor Bloomberg blasted the controversy yesterday as "a made-up story" and fumed that "the real risk is [in] not getting the kids to the park" to exercise and avoid obesity.

The Council hearing was on several bills to control synthetic fields, including one to impose a six-month moratorium on building new synthetic-turf fields of any kind.

The bill's main sponsor, City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens), urged the city to remove all of the controversial material.

"When it comes to our kids," he said, "we can't be too safe."


With Erin Einhorn