Jacob H. Schiff Playground
The Daily Plant : Monday, September 19, 2005
KICKING OFF A MAJOR COMMITMENT TO BALLFIELDS
On Friday, September 16, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined more than 100 children from P.S. 192 to cut the ribbon on a $928,000 overhaul of the ballfield at Jacob Schiff Playground in Harlem, and to announce Parks’ unprecedented commitment to building and improving ballfields across New York City. The plan, which spans 55 projects over the next two years, includes more than $50 million of funding from various City Council members and Mayor Bloomberg. After Commissioner Benepe addressed the crowd of children and community members, everyone tested out the new synthetic turf field.
"With a huge increase in the demand for playing fields brought about by the boom in youth soccer and the explosion of sports opportunities for women and girls, we have been challenged to create new and more flexible fields," said Commissioner Benepe. "We have been particularly fortunate to have a new technology that allows us to replace unfriendly surfaces such as asphalt and dirt with a new, safe, and environmentally friendly synthetic turf."
Parks has 21 fields currently in design or construction; 34 new fields or overhauls of existing ones are on the agenda for 2006 and 2007. This figure underscores a major initiative to convert previously unused asphalt sites into active recreation space, while upgrading out-of-date properties into community assets. Several flagship fields have been introduced within the last two years or are currently in the works—including the Owl Hollow fields at Fresh Kills in Staten Island and Olympic-quality facilities at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island.
Parks began utilizing synthetic turf in 1997, and has increased its use of the material under the Bloomberg administration. Benefits of synthetic turf include safety; increased versatility (synthetic turf can accommodate more sports, including particularly punishing ones such as soccer); decreased need for maintenance; and decreased environmental impact thanks to the elimination of pesticides, fossil-fuel-powered equipment, and irrigation during droughts. Synthetic turf doesn’t require weekly mowing, watering, fertilizing, seeding, and other time-intensive tasks; additionally, they are useable year-round, and wear out much more slowly—these differences add up to savings of more than $25,000 per field each year. In addition to a growing investment in this new technology, Parks continues to upgrade and introduce natural grass fields in appropriate sites.
Schiff Field is one of 13 fields created or restored in Harlem, East Harlem, and Manhattan Valley in the last four years. Three of the new fields were converted from asphalt to artificial turf, including Frederick Douglass Park at Amsterdam Avenue and 102nd Street, Dr. Eugene McCabe at 120th Street and Park Avenue, and Robert F. Wagner Field at 120th and Park Avenue. At Thomas Jefferson Park, at 113th Street and First Avenue, three grass ballfields were restored with new grass surfaces, and a long-closed bare dirt soccer field was restored with synthetic turf and a new perimeter running track. Four grass baseball fields at Colonel Charles Young Field have been restored, and a pee-wee field was created in Jackie Robinson Park at 149th Street and Bradhurst Avenue. Five ballfield restoration projects in Harlem and Upper Manhattan are in progress or will begin in Fiscal Year 2006.
At Jacob Schiff Playground, renovations included converting an asphalt play area into a baseball and soccer field, new perimeter fencing and a seven-foot brick retaining wall, and improvements to the drainage system. The work was originally funded by former Council Member Stanley E. Michels; Council Member Jackson currently represents the district. The site it sits on was originally home to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, and served as army barracks during World War II. The property was transferred to Parks in 1956; in 1987, it was named after banker and philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man’s life as in a book. Haste makes waste, no less in life than in housekeeping. Keep the time, observe the hours of the universe, not of the cars."
Henry David Thoreau