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Community rallies to save trees

Pelham Parkway locals love their trees, and they’ll fight to keep them from becoming wood chips.

Residents of Pelham Parkway are appalled by the Department of Design and Construction’s plan to remove mature trees during the massive reconstruction project, and they proved it during a large rally on Saturday, July 10.

Members of the newly-formed Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance gathered at Peace Plaza’s war memorial at Pelham Parkway North and Williamsbridge Road, carrying signs and handing out flyers about the importance of keeping all trees that are not diseased or dying in place on the parkway. This is as improvements, including the installation of new sewers and catch basins, are made during the $36 million, two-year reconstruction project.

The alliance, which has collected over 1,000 petition signatures calling on the DDC to keep as many of the 100-year-old Linden trees as possible, has garnered grassroots support from many on the parkway who are concerned.

The DDC’s plan to cut down about 90 trees and replace them with 240 saplings will destroy canopy cover, hurt the area’s aesthetics, and be ecologically wrong, according to residents. Protestors were quick to remind listeners that each tree is able to absorb 50 to 100 gallons of water per day.

“My main objection is that the Parks Department is supposed to be the stewards of the land, and I feel that the city has the wrong mentality here,” said alliance co-founder George Zulch. “I fault the city for not doing what is right, because they are not listening to the community.”

Zulch said that in his interactions with different city agencies, they cited guidelines which said that guardrails must be installed along the length of the parkway due to federal regulations.

However, he was only able to find guidelines from an independent association called the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which he said merely “recommends” guardrails be placed on parkways.

Even if that is the case, guardrails already stand beside rows of mature trees along the parkway, Zulch said, so in his view, there is no reason to cut so many trees down.

Joining community activists holding signs that read “Help save the Pelham Parkway trees” and, “Keep the parkway beautiful, keep the trees,” was Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who attended the rally to show his support for the cause and to call on DDC and Parks to revise its plans to cut down so many trees.

“We want the Parks Department to review each and every tree,” Vacca said. “They are talking about taking down a total of 90 trees, but I think that is a high number. The city is saying that they believe some of the mature trees may die in five or ten years. We are saying that in that case, we should take care of them.”

According to correspondence between Community Board 11 and DDC, only 37 of the 90 trees slated to be cut down for the reconstruction project are diseased or dying, or necessary for the completion of the project.

Members of the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance are saying that cutting down that many trees would make the Parkway look too different.

“This is one of the nicer communities in the Bronx,” said resident David Varenne, who bought a house nearby 10 years ago. “I think a big part of its appeal is those trees on the parkway.”

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