artturf.jpgThe artificial turf being used to replace natural grass in NYC parks has been pointed out as a source of unhealthful emissions, but it's also just plain hot. The Daily News dispatched reporters with thermometers to five City parks with artificial grass and found that urban athletes had more to fear than ill-fitting footwear when it comes to blistered feet.

Over two mildly warm days last month, The News took surface temperature readings at five synthetic fields across the city accompanied by NYC Park Advocates, a group that has been critical of the fake grass.

At all five, temperatures at the synthetic fields soared roughly twice as high as at nearby natural grass ones, from a low of 144 degrees at the Greenbelt Recreation Center on Staten Island to a scorching 162 at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens.

Advocates insist that artificial turf poses no health risks, although some are suspected due to chemicals emitted when the surfaces are heated. New York City has installed 77 of the fields since 2002, replacing both natural grass and improving paved lots. Proponents say that the artificial surfaces are a budget-saving asset, although the math on the investment seems rather long-term. First deputy parks commissioner Liam Kavanaugh seemed sanguine about the prospect of scalding playing fields in the parks: "The temperatures can get very high during the heat of the day. But people are smart. They are not going to use a place that is uncomfortable to play on."

South Oxford Park, Earth Day 2007, by j_bary at flickr