The reservoir's historic structures & ecosystems are an opportunity to create a unique environmental education center for our children & their future.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More Brilliant Planning by Parks

The following article just appeared in AM-NY:

Air quality a concern at parks near busy streets
By Ryan Chatelain

At a ground-breaking last September, officials touted how CaVaLa Park, with its centerpiece 113-foot-long sculpted fountain, would soon serve as a striking gateway for people entering Manhattan through the Holland Tunnel.

But what can those looking outward from the half-acre park — on a triangular swath of land where Canal, Varick and Laight streets converge — expect when it opens this fall?

An endless string of noisy cars? A tunnel spewing polluted air a block away?

“Depending on where the air patterns are, you could be literally in the choking area,” said Michael Seilback, senior director of public policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association in New York.

The close proximity of many New York City parks to congested roadways has existed about as long as traffic itself. But even some new parks are being built in areas where the air might be less than pristine.

For example, in replacing parkland lost in the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, the city placed an artificial-turf soccer field atop a public parking garage used on game days. The South Bronx has one of the country’s highest rates of childhood asthma.

Daniel Kass, assistant commissioner of the city Department of Health’s Bureau of Environmental Surveillance and Policy, cautioned against concluding that air quality near busy streets or tunnels is worse than in other parts of the city.

“The reality is that we don’t know enough about how air quality varies in this city,” Kass said. “Some things are not necessarily intuitive. You could be running next to a highway along a river, and depending on the prevailing winds, the air quality could be substantially better than it could be elsewhere.”

Environmental impact studies are conducted before new parks are built, noted Philip Abramson, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Some New Yorkers, however, weren’t so sure that the air is safe.

“It’s not that healthy,” said Ben McDougald, 71, as he power-walked around the rooftop soccer field near Yankee Stadium, which partially opened last month. “But here we don’t have much of a choice.”

Those exercising near high-traffic areas may be at a greater risk of inhaling polluted air. The American Lung Association estimates that an endurance athlete, such as a marathon runner, breathes in up to 20 times as much air as someone at rest.

Poor air quality can contribute to heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks, researchers say.

The issue presents a catch-22 of sorts: Green spaces, after all, produce oxygen, which helps clean the air.

Geoffrey Croft, president of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates, blamed poor city planning for hundreds of parks near congested streets.

“When they laid out our city, from 1811, the parks weren’t planned for,” Croft said. “We’ve been paying that price for a very, very long time.”

One thing the article didn't point out was that the Department of Parks and Recreation seems to be installing artificial recreational surfaces throughout the 5 boroughs at a much faster pace than the Mayor is able to plant trees. Someone also needs to look at how much more heat is being released into NYC's atmosphere once natural vegetation is replaced by plastic carpeted fields.

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