EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A park in one New Jersey city is getting a much-needed renovation, but the plans for that park are not popular with everyone.
As CBS2’s Nick Caloway reported Tuesday, as trees come down, a community is raising its voice.READ MORE: Viral Video Shows Unmasked NYPD Officer Pushing Masked Commuter Out Of Subway Station
“We woke up and the trees were gone. It was extremely upsetting,” said East Orange resident Danielle Spooner.
Columbian Park in East Orange is getting a facelift. But it was after the heavy machinery rolled in that many neighbors say they were told the details. The once grassy fields will be replaced by an artificial turf baseball and football field, a rubber running track and new playground.
Many neighbors are glad the park is being renovated, but they worry the turf won’t be as absorbent as grass, which could lead to flooding. There are also concerns about kids being exposed to chemicals used in the materials.
And then there’s the heat: Turf can get much hotter than grass.
“Studies have shown that AstroTurf can heat your community up by between 20 and 60 degrees,” East Orange resident Abel Rumph said.
City Administrator Solomon Steplight defended the use of turf, saying it’s a safe, year-round alternative to grass, and is cheaper to maintain.READ MORE: Hip-Hop Improv Show 'Freestyle Love Supreme' Returns To Broadway
“The city has a number of turf fields that are being used. And the residents in this area wanted a turf field that the kids could use,” Steplight said.
So far, 17 trees have been taken down. Most of them were dead, or sick. Forty new trees will be planted in their place.
Now, neighbors are digging in, starting a petition asking East Orange city leaders to stop what they call an environmental injustice.
“I want to know that our city officials, who are claiming to be environmentally friendly… that they are actually committed to greening the city and keeping the greenery that we already have here. Because it’s kind of hard to go backwards,” Spooner said.
A group of residents say they finally got a meeting with city leaders set for next month, where they will plead their case for using grass, and keeping the green space green.
The park renovation will cost nearly $5 million of state and local money, and is expected to be complete in May of next year.MORE NEWS: Eligible New Jersey Residents Urged To Get COVID Booster Shot
CBS2’s Nick Caloway contributed to this report.