The NYC Parks Department is in in the process of replacing natural grass on many of its playing fields with artificial turf. The fake grass is plastic and laid over a rubber layer that softens the field. According to the NY Post, the Parks Department installed 74 artificial turf fields since 2002. 55 replaced natural grass and 19 were put over existing hard-top lots. Another 100 fields are planned for conversion to artificial turf over the next five years, at a cost of $150 million and an annual maintenance savings of $15,000 per field. We hope those fields are durable, because that envisions a 100-year investment timeline before the artificial-turf fields pay for themselves, even if the city is getting its money for free.
Parks advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks did a study on artificial turf in city parks and recommends the surface for playing fields intended for year-round use, but never on baseball fields. It also cautions that the long-term health effects of the materials used in artificial turf are unknown and that public input should be a major factor when considering conversion to or installation of artificial turf.
However, we wonder about the study conducted by atmospheric scientist Stuart Gaffin (of the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University) which found that artificial grass gets really hot: Apparently artificial turf can get as hot as 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit, making them "among the hottest possible for urban areas, rivaling dark roofs and fresh asphalt."