Sparse shade in the remains of East River Park means that temperatures in the former oasis are dangerously high. We need remedies.
Some intrepid Actioneers braved the outdoors despite heat advisories August 9. We measured temperatures around the area of East River Park. (We started measurements at Corlears Hook Park as shown above because that’s where we could find grass and plantings and trees and get near construction work. We can’t get comparable measurements at the South End of East River Park because it is now mostly inaccessible and a hot mess). You won’t be surprised that the few spots of grassy shade were cooler.
There are severe public health consequences to making our neighborhood hotter and drier, which is what has happened now that we have lost some 700 trees. There are also remedies. Here is evidence that can help you make the case for positive action.
How hot was it?
We went out at 2:00 p.m. and took readings until 3:45 when the air was 97º. We used a Smart Sensor Infared thermometer, which measures surface temperatures. We pointed it at many spots including asphalt, the dry and sunny “passive lawn” that is the only available park space near the river at the south end of the park. Then we checked temperatures at the track and field at 6th St., the grove of mature trees just south of the track, and the artificial and real grass fields. We took more than one reading at many spots as you can see from the variations in the chart below.
Temperatures ranged from 80º in tall thick grass in partial shade to 157º at the artificial turf field at the running track in full sun. Under the grove of mature trees in the park, it was still hot–90-95º–but cooler than the reported air temperature in the city.
|122º||Soil and asphalt around the flagpole at Corlears Hook Park, full sun|
|90º||Magnolia tree trunk by Corlears Hook dog run, shade|
|90-92º||Soil around magnolia tree, shade|
|95º||Magnolia leaves above our heads, shade|
|127º||Lawn in Corlears Hook Park, full sun|
|114º||Plantings along the lawn in Corlears Hook Park, full sun|
|87º||Plantings along the lawn in Corlears Hook Park, shade|
|145º||Artificial turf playing field in Corlears Hook Park, full sun|
|93º||Sidewalk in Corlears Hook, shade|
|132º||Asphalt footpath in sun on West Side of FDR to Corlears Hook ferry landing, full sun|
|115-137º||Gray ramp on footbridge over FDR to Corlears Hook ferry landing, full sun|
|104º||Yellow stripe on footbridge ramp, full sun|
|99º||Concrete path by the ferry landing, full sun|
|95-99º||“Passive” lawn, full sun|
|85-93º||“Passive” lawn, sparse dappled shade from trees along edges|
|84º||Tree trunk at edge of lawn, partial shade|
|87º||Dead tree trunk, full sun|
|80º||Tall grass at edge of lawn, partial shade|
|103º||Construction piles covered in white plastic, full sun|
|151º||Track at 6th Street, East River Park, full sun|
|157º||Artificial turf field inside track, full sun|
|131º||Asphalt path outside of track, full sun|
|133º||Rubber mats in exercise area next to track, shaded|
|95º||Trunk of mature trees south of track, shaded|
|95-99º||Ground under trees in the grove, shaded|
|Side by side playing fields in East River Park at Houston St., one artificial turf, the other grass:|
|118º||Artificial turf field, full sun|
|108º||Grass field, brown and dry, full sun|
|87º||Green plants along edges of grass field|
What can we do now?
Start by demanding all street trees that have been promised to be planted in our neighborhood to be planted this fall. The city is not reliable about keeping promises. The original promise was 1,000 trees for CB3 (the area adjacent to East River Park), yet the city decided CB6 should get half of them. We need every one of those trees and more.
The city promised us extra street trees in part to make up for the loss of parkland. Pester your public officials to get those trees planted. It’s a public health necessity.
See the city’s own Heat Mortality Report if you need evidence: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/about/press/pr2022/heat-related-mortality-report.page
And if you want to learn more about the dangers of these crazy temperatures, look at the National Weather Service New York’s Excessive Heat page: https://www.weather.gov/okx/excessiveheat
We also need maintenance for street trees that we already have. You can help directly with that. You can take stewardship training – see http://nycgovparks.org/reg/stewardship – and take care of your block’s trees.
It’s especially important to note that young trees need watering and respect – be gentle, it’s a living thing. Help keep it from being treated like a toilet, a trash can or a swing, and it will be shading the block and making air cleaner and cooler for decades to come. Every tree, every green space, every community garden could use your help. Your care will help NYC’s “natural air conditioning system.”
And tell the city to CEASE AND DESIST gratuitous tree slaughter. They promised to keep 42 percent of the park open and usable. Every tree they cut reduces the usable park! This is unacceptable. Raise hell about it!
Get a real time local reading on the heat, humidity & PM2.5 at https://eastriverparkaction.org/sensors/
UPDATE, AUG. 10, 2022
With air temperatures at 82-85º today, we did some additional measuring. In Rector Park in Battery Park City, which has a well-maintained lawn and garden, the grass was 74º in the shade and 94º in the sun. By contrast, in Corlears Hook Park, with a lawn that is dried and patchy, the temperature was 83º in the shade and 132º in the sun.
We also tested green lawns in Battery Park and Wagner Park with similar results. Longer grass and plantings along the edges of the lawns were coolest.
The shaded bike and walkways along the Hudson were 81º to 86º. The unshaded asphalt path going toward the ferry in Corlears Hook Park was 110º on the same afternoon.
The moral of the story: you get lower temperatures if you keep your lawns green and pair them with plantings and most of all with trees providing shade.
The lesson from this story: If you are a public/private entity put there for privately owned high-end housing (Battery Park City Authority) or if you are a public park with lots of tourists (Battery Park), you get maintenance and lower temperatures. If you are in a low-income neighborhood, you get…bupkus.
Unless you demand better. Demand justice. Get our green spaces and shade. Don’t let city officials continue to leave us hot and hotter.
2 thoughts on “Hot and Hotter”
In fact, synthetic fields get almost as hot in the sun as a tar rooftop, according to Stuart Gaffin, an atmospheric scientist at the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia. Gaffin found the temperatures above artificial turf fields measured at 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, creating what he described as “heat islands.”
Why do grass fields stay cooler than synthetic turf fields? Gaffin found “the answer is in the evaporation of soil moisture through the grass leaves. Plants are nature’s ‘geniuses’ when it comes to evaporating water to stay cool in the sunlight. Plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, so they have perfected mechanisms of evaporation to avoid burning up.”
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