By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Parks Department will be installing turf surfaces at three asphalt playgrounds in Community District 6 to provide alternative spaces for Little Leagues along the East River during construction for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project.
The mitigation project, which representatives from Parks announced at a joint Land Use and Parks Committee meeting for Community Board 6 on Monday night, includes installing turf and painting lines for baseball, softball and soccer. The changes are planned for Peter’s Field at Second Avenue and East 20th Street, as well as St. Vartan’s at First Avenue and East 35th Street and Robert Moses playground at First Avenue and East 41st Street.
The Peter’s Field playground space is connected to Simon Baruch JHS on East 20th Street and Sarah Neilson from the Parks Department said at the CB6 meeting that the agency talked to the principal of the school, who approved of the plan. The basketball hoops will still be available on the playground, although in response to a question about replacing the nets on the hoops, Nielson said that is unlikely since the nets often get vandalized and the hoops often get damaged because kids hang from the nets and pull them down.
Neilson explained that the city is hoping to do the work on these playgrounds for this coming spring before the other park closures for the ESCR construction take effect. Construction for the ESCR is projected to begin by next spring and is expected to be completed by late 2025, although operable flood protection should be in place by mid-2023.
The project will convert the current playgrounds into what the Parks Department calls multi-purpose play areas (MPPA) by installing a synthetic turf coating and striping for baseball, softball and soccer.
The Peter Stuyvesant Little League uses Murphy Brothers Playground and will likely be relocated to Peter’s Field while the usual field is closed. Although Murphy Brothers is only expected to be unavailable in 2022, the treatments for Peter’s Field and the other playgrounds are expected to remain in place for the entire duration of construction for the ESCR for four years to provide other alternatives for leagues that would usually use playgrounds in East River Park.
Murray Hill parents at the meeting who frequent St. Vartan’s voiced opposition to the plan at the meeting, arguing that the synthetic turf caters only to the leagues and takes away opportunities for other kinds of play for the majority of the year.
The softer surface is intended to provide alternatives primarily for the young kids who play in the little leagues that use Murphy Brothers and other fields in East River Park, but Murray Hill resident and PS 116 parent Christos Chios, who coaches his son in the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, said that the asphalt surface is better for the park overall.
“My kid plays Little League for an hour but the rest of the time he just runs around the park,” Chios said.
One Murray Hill mom who didn’t want to give her name said that St. Vartan’s is where she takes her kids to scoot and ride their bikes, which won’t be possible on the turf.
“St. Vartan’s is like our version of a suburban driveway where kids can ride around on their bikes,” she said. “They’re taking away our driveway. We have nothing else.”