Those of you from the Big Apple, and hardcore twitchers up and down the east coast, will probably feel a vague stirring of recollection when I mention the name Dreier-Offerman Park. Or Calvert Vaux Park, as it’s now formally known. Ring any bells?

Of course it does. Dreier Offerman/Calvert Vaux is where the Western $%%#$^%&^%^ Reef Heron made its celebrated appearance in the summer of 2007.

Though the area is a former landfill site and sometimes not the most prepossessing place in the borough, it’s a significant place for birds – I got two life-list species in two trips there last year. Obviously, water-bound birds are significant – both Night-Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets, Kingfishers, a range of Terns and Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants and assorted shorebirds and Ducks.

But the park is also kind of a big deal for grassland birds. Killdeer breed there, Kestrels hunt, and in migration your trip list might also include Eastern Meadowlark, American Pipit, Horned Lark, and various Sparrows.

Via Rob Jett, I learn that the Parks Department has recently taken notice of Calvert Vaux, and plans to make a number of improvements. Some of these are most welcome, including proposed habitat creation on part of the 70-acre site. Unfortunately, the very first step, planned to start by the end of the month, is tearing up six of the soccer fields and replacing them with artificial turf.

Not only will this move be bad for birds (and the plants and invertebrates they feed on), it’s also likely to be bad for the park’s other bipedal users. Artificial turf has been implicated in many injuries, both because it gives less than natural turf and because it absorbs more heat from the sun. On top of this, it increases storm-water runoff.

Despite all this, the Parks department is quite enamored of artificial turf; it requires less maintenance and satisfies the demands of soccer players who want an ever-green playing surface that can be used without being allowed to rest. Naturally, soccer players are stakeholders too; but their needs could be met by doing more and better maintenance (which would also create jobs) or by creating a few additional fields so the burden was shared out more.

If you have something to say about this, say it to:

Bill Tai, Director, Natural Resources Group,
City of New York Parks & Recreation
Arsenal North
1234 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
bill.tai AT parks.nyc.gov

And copy:

Adrian Benepe, Commissioner
City of New York, Dept of Parks & Recreation
The Arsenal at Central Park
830 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10021
adrian.benepe AT parks.nyc.gov

Suzanne Mattei, Regional Director
NYSDEC Region 2
1 Hunters Point Plaza
47-40 21st St.
Long Island City, NY 11101-5407
smmattei AT gw.dec.state.ny.us

Thanks to Ida Sanoff of the Natural Resources Protective Association for the contact information.

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