Church Square Park Update

8/13/2007 Update:


More Turf Battles!

The New York Times and Bergen Record are reporting on more Artificial Turf battles similar to the one here in Hoboken. Today’s Times Metro Section has a story about Natural Grass vs. Artificial Turf in Battery Park City. Here is an excerpt from “On Playing Fields, Grass is an Endangered Species”:

…the use of turf has also prompted other health concerns, about the possible dangers posed by the materials used to make it, as well as its ability to soak up so much sunlight that it heats up to extreme temperatures.

Scientists at Columbia University who analyzed satellite thermal images of New York City the past two summers concluded that synthetic turf fields were up to 60 degrees hotter than grass fields. They attributed the difference to the pigments used in making the turf, as well as the turf’s reliance on filaments that increase the surface area that soaks up heat. More important, the turf lacked grass’s ability to vaporize water and cool the air. Stuart Gaffin, an associate research scientist at the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University, said the synthetic fields get almost as hot as a tar rooftop.

Even without the heat, some opponents of turf have raised questions about the recycled tire rubber that is ground up and sprinkled on the turf to give it added cushion and springiness. William Crain, a psychology professor at City College who paid to have the rubber analyzed, said it contained “worrisome” levels of a known carcinogen… His objections to turf go beyond any possible physical effects it may have. As a psychologist who has studied children and play, he insisted that natural fields stimulated children’s mental development by increasing their curiosity and their powers of observation.

There is much more in the full Times article here.

Bergen Record: Turf ‘s “Expensive Secret”

The Sunday Bergen record also had a front page article on the pros and cons of Artificial Turf entitled “Changes, upkeep are artificial turf’s expensive secret”. Here are some excerpts:

The sun can’t brown it, the rain can’t drown it, and even soccer cleats can’t trash artificial grass. But artificial turf has other problems: It has to be brushed and aerated, it heats up in the summer and needs to be cooled with water, and it can require labor-intensive painting and paint removal.

Now, one North Jersey town is facing up to $20,000 of expense or hundreds of hours of labor over the life of its turf to change permanent markings that prevent multiple games from happening simultaneously. The turf issues are a cautionary tale for the North Jersey towns and schools that are flocking to artificial surfaces as a low-maintenance solution to their sports field woes, experts said.

“A lot of people are a little naive about what the true costs of these fields are,” said Jim Murphy of the Rutgers Center for Turfgrass Science.

You can read the full article here:

Who started Hoboken’s “Turf Battle?”

Since all this “turf talk” took off people have been asking who brought artificial turf to Hoboken in the first place. Fingers point to former Director of Enviornmental Services Cassandra Wilday, who was at the helm when the city first got involved in laying fake grass down in parks. Less than a year into Mayor Dave Roberts’ first term, Wilday spearheaded the effort to resurface the field at Sinatra Park with artificial turf. This was in the Hoboken Reporter back in May of 2002:

According to Wilday, the field has terrible drainage problems. Because the field is built on a pier and was constructed without drainage devices, the water has a tendency to puddle when it rains. These puddles have killed approximately half of the grass on the field, making it uneven and full of small holes and trenches. Wilday is confident that the major renovations and the installation of turf will solve both the drainage and heavy usage issues.

The Sinatra Park turf plan was also supported by the Hoboken Youth Soccer League and Wilday’s boss, Mayor Roberts, whose enthusiasm for faux grass later led to the resurfacing of the baseball field at Stevens Park, and fields at JFK Stadium. In February 2003 Roberts stood with State Senator Bernie Kenny, Councilman Ruben Ramos, and former Councilmen Chris Campos and Michael Cricco to announce a $2 million state grant to resurface the track and field at Kennedy Stadium.

In and out, then back in to City Hall

Wilday is a close ally of former Councilwoman Carol Marsh. Wilday resigned her directorship to become the city’s “Open Space Planner”, a position created for her. She stepped down altogether after Roberts blamed her for losing the floating pool that was supposed to come to Pier C Park. At the time Wilday produced memos indicating Roberts was warned but didn’t take action. Former City Attorney Joe Sherman called the memos into question, saying they couldn’t be found on any city-issued computers. The relationship didn’t end well, but there was a reconciliation of sorts this year.

Around the time Roberts first proposed roll rolling the green carpet down on Church Square Park he was also making peace with Wilday and Marsh. Wilday was appointed by Roberts to the Hoboken Shade Tree Commission around the same time Marsh made her deal to run (unsuccessfully) for Assembly under the HCDO banner supported by Roberts and Kenny.

8/10/2007 Update:

Roll out the turf!



A reader found a similar type story about astroturf in Hoboken over at the Stevens Institute. They’re already replacing the turf that was laid down 6 or 7 years ago due to “excessive wear and tear”.

I wonder what the “quality” of the other turf around Hoboken is? Will another $130,000 need to be spent again and again?

(FYI – volume is low on this video.. you’ll have to crank it up)

7/26/2007 Update 2:

Letter from Mayor Roberts:

mayor-roberts-hoboken-july-26-2007.jpgDear Hoboken Resident:

I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight regarding substantial improvement to Church Square Park, namely an open, community-based decision to place an artificial surface on a heavily used but small portion, approximately 1/8th the size of the park.

As you may know, the park is heavily used by the many schools in the area, causing much wear and tear in the area. Over a year ago, I asked school administrators and interested residents to offer their opinions on the best usage of the site. As a result of many meeting with school representatives, it was determined that proposed water play area would consume too much space for a limited area in such a heavily used park.

It was decided that the best use would be to recap the most heavily used portion with artificial surfacing to provide consistent year-round usage designed specifically to meet the needs of park-goers with a soft and cushioned based with improved drainage, unlike Astroturf. This plan was approved by the City Council on March 7th, 2007, and bid publicly to a contractor.

This plan is not inconsistent with regional public parks. In fact, this practice has been implemented in Manhattan. Locally, our Soccer Field, Little League Field and High School Field have artificial surfaces. They are economical and provide endurance for constant use.

Church Square Park has undergone a metamorphous from a passive park to a recently updated active facility utilized by residents of all ages. The resurfacing plan, approved by residents, the City Council and this Administration is the most prudent option.

Mayor David Roberts

7/26/2007 Update:

5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham sent this email out regarding the pending Astroturf over at Church Square Park.

I’m glad SOMEONE is stepping up to the plate here. Finally, a City Council person who is reaching out to residents in more ways than one. Even outside of his own ward! Good job, Peter!

Attention: Church Square Park Astro-Turf

Please ensure that this is circulated and acted upon ASAP.

The NE corner of the park is expected to be astro-turfed unless you act NOW. The park officials contend that they will be able to grow grass in the other areas of the park while the kids will play on the A-Turf in the NE section.

The Administration has received complaints from the schools for some time regarding the over use of Church Square Park during school hours; and what will the Administration do about it. We know it has been a challenge for the Administration to effectively manage their parks by monitoring and enforcing kids, dogs (dog owners), and others from going into grassy areas – however, they do manage that effectively with hurricane fencing for the late spring/early summer sodding.

And there lies the problem (complaint).


The school kids then have to find other places to recreate through the rest of the school year. The summer months into the fall we have beautiful lush grass in most areas in Church Square Park. Then the process starts all over again. By the time the spring rolls around, it is a dust bowl again. It has been like this for decades, as I am sure it was when we were kids in many places across America.

More importantly, dogs will urinate and defecate on the A-Turf as well and that poses another set of problems as dog feces and remnants will take much longer to break down on A-Turf. And we all know this will happen because of lack of enforcement. Kids may burn their knees which may result in infections. It is not necessarily a “safer surface” as what has been earlier quoted.

Additional comments heard indicate that the Administration spoke to the schools and that this was what they wanted as a “compromise.” Nobody seems to know what the competing issues were that resulted in a compromise. I have found that at least two schools seemed unaware of the A-turf issue. So who really knew about this? It was also mentioned that the HFA may have been aware of this action to be taken by the Administration. ASEDS recreates at Stevens Park.

Anyhow, I’m hearing that nobody wants A-Turf at Church Square Park – adults and parents alike. By the way, this cost $130,000 (75,000 in grant funding). I want to hear from you, but more importantly, those opposed need to call the Mayor.

We need a better solution…a natural solution. We need to rework the scheduling (and reintroduce Stevens Park and the little league ball field) to accommodate.

Of course, this should have been a open public process. We are hopeful that it may not be too late to forward to your membership for comment.
Perhaps A-Turf is the solution (I hope not), but you need to let me and/or your local councilperson know.
And for those opposed, they must call the Mayor ASAP.

He is the only one that can stop this project.

His numbers are 201-420-2018 & 201-420-2013.

Thanks, Peter Cunningham

Read the original reader mail below!


Many readers chimed in, wondering what is going on in that fenced off northeast area of Church Square Park.

Here’s your answer from 6th Ward Councilman, Nino Giacchi: Astro-turf!


“Dear 411,

The area in the northeast corner of the park will be fitted with an artificial surface. This work was scheduled to take place during May and June following the installation of the new equipment in the same area. However, at the request of the surrounding schools, the construction work was postponed until after the schools closed. This quadrant of the park will remain open space. The artificial surface will eliminate the dust and mud that resulted from the wear and tear of the many sporting activities. This surface should also be more durable and require less maintenance. The work should be completed in about 45 days or so.

Thank you for your interest. If I can be of any further assistance, please feel to contact me.

Nino Giacchi”



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308 Comments on "Church Square Park Update"

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[quote comment=”36611″]What is it going to cost to maintain the Astro-Turf each season? Has that cost been factored in? Perhaps the city will do more back room deals to cover the continuing cost servicing an artificial surface in the park. Grass grows. But then again perhaps they will let it be, collecting dog feces, urine, and water from the rains.[/quote]

You are assuming it will be maintained. Have you seen the rubber flooring in the Toddler Park that has started lifting up? It has not been repaired, the little spot that needs to be repaired has been spreading.


I’m wondering what it’s like when it gets wet or has some snow/ice on it.
Does that make it a complete death trap?


[quote comment=”41698″]You were quoting me not ‘ShhhDontTell.'[/quote]

Sorry, I deleted the wrong comment number… I agree with you on how slippery the stuff is…


[quote comment=”41696″]Here is a reference chart on surface tempatures measured by Penn State. Astoundingly the Astro Turf can be 35-60 degrees hotter then the air temp.

Lots of good stuff on this site.[/quote]

I and several other people have been saying how f@#king hot this synthetic surface can get. I was stunned myself when I touched and knelt on it. It WILL be an issue.


You were quoting me not ‘ShhhDontTell.’ Anyway, the cleats is my point about how badly this turf slips. They get this stupid fake turf for children to play soccer or other team games and all they will be doing is slipping and sliding. The group of men I saw playing touch football were slipping like crazy. But then again they were in socks. Maybe they couldn’t run in their regular shoes on the stuff. The mayor commissioned the artificial turf to look like grass without thinking about the effectiveness in how it would hold up under ‘play.’ This whole Astro-turf thing has been a mess especially since they should NOT be putting artificial turf down in a park to serve as a ‘field’ for soccer.