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Hastings Wages Turf War Over Reynolds Field Renewal

Hastings residents will vote on a proposed school bond and renovation of Reynolds Field on Oct. 22
Hastings residents will vote on a proposed school bond and renovation of Reynolds Field on Oct. 22 Photo Credit: Danny LoPriore

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- Natural grass or synthetic plastic turf?

The Hastings Board of Education has proposed an $8.6 million capital improvements plan, which includes an $8.1 million bond and the use of $500,000 of the district's capital reserves, for a renovation to replace the grass at Reynolds Field with a surface that some residents contend is bad for the environment.

The proposed use of Geo-Turf, which contains polyurethane, polyethylene and polypropylene in the "grass", and has a base that blends natural cork and coconut fiber, has met with opposition by the conservationist Friends of Reynolds Field group and others who hope to preserve the natural grass.

Ronald Cascone and others argue that a synthetic field would be composed of polyurethane materials that are not recyclable, which the Board of Education claims. Cascone said, "polyurethane is not “recyclable” because it is a thermoset polymer that cannot be re-melted like other plastics, aluminum, steel, copper, etc. and made into new products."

"The best we can do is grind it up and use it the way we do sawdust, blending it in as a diluent in low-performance products - not a high value use," Cascone said. "Given the dismal rate of recycling of only 29 percent the most valuable and recyclable plastic, PET, then whatever polyurethane’s recyclability, we cannot realistically expect that it would actually be substantially recycled. Suggestions to the contrary are naïve at best, and are knowing lies at worst."

Daily Voice readers are voting 127-56 (as of Thursday morning) in favor of the bond in a poll posted last week. Readers are allowed to vote once in the poll which allows those under the eligible voting age to vote.

But opponents of the Reynolds Field plan, like Elisa Zazzera, have concerns about the environmental effects of "plastic" fields. 

"I believe covering Reynolds field in plastic is wrong for this community, wrong for humanity," Zazzera said. "Our environment is in trouble. Human life on the planet is in trouble. The hubris to that think a field for children to participate in team sports is top priority at any cost is the exact thinking that will bring life as we know it to extinction."

Those who support the Board of Education's plan believe the materials used in the synthetic turf are safe and that a complete renovation of the Reynolds Field athletic facility is timely and would allow full use to residents and the school district who share the park.

Tim Downey, a longtime resident, argues that his long experience with Reynolds Field moved him to supporting the new turf system.

"Virtually, no one would argue against the use of “natural grass” if the surface would endure the usage," Downey said. However,there is no super, special, secret, selective seed which will specifically satisfy the school and community field surface, that’s the science and limitations unfortunately. This is not your household lawn which appears to be the limits of knowledge and experience “natural grass” supporters attempt to advocate."

Downey asserts that the synthetic field surface allows for more consistent use through bad weather, change of seasons and wear and tear that comes with natural grass.

"The (turf) affords more comfort in the early spring and late fall at precisely the time when the chill can make it uncomfortable to play in uniforms," Downey said. "If you’ve ever played sports on fields on the edges times of the season, you’ll completely understand this logic. Nothing is more uncomfortable than cold wet soil smooshed into your clothing/uniform sticking to your skin."

Christy Pennoyer is opposed to using synthetic turf. She said the school board's proposal to build a six-lane running track that will host track meets and other additions should not come at the higher cost of cutting down existing trees.

"Despite the fact that the School Board has chosen to go with cork/coconut infill instead of crumb rubber, I am still opposed," Pennoyer said. "The field will heat up at least 15 degrees above air temp making it extremely uncomfortable to play on many days of the year. This week for example, the first  week in October, the temperature is predicted to be 80 degrees on Wednesday - that means 95 degrees on the field."

Norbert Sander said the village's children and their access to playing fields are his main concern.

"The Bond is for our children and their education, health and future," Sander said. "Hastings students deserve a level playing field to prepare in all ways for the years ahead. We should give them no less."

As the Oct. 22 bond vote approaches, residents are campaigning for and against the major financial investment that will renovate the Reynolds Field athletic complex. Signs and fliers have been posted nearly everywhere in the village.

Where do you stand on the proposed $8.1 million capital improvements bond and the use of synthetic turf in the field reconstruction? Leave your comments here.

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