Councilman Vacca chides Parks on Pelham Bay tree planting

The Parks Department forestry unit planted these trees recently. They directly abut the property of St. Theresa School in Pelham Bay on St. Theresa Avenue near Mayflower Avenue, away from the curb.
Photo courtesy of Councilman Vacca’s office

Two recently planted street trees have a local elected official squaring off with the Parks Department.

St. Theresa School’s principal reached out to Councilman James Vacca after a couple of street trees were planted along the perimeter of their fence, instead of at the curb, on St. Theresa Avenue between Pilgrim and Mayflower avenues.

While they are rare, multiple sources said that street trees are sometimes planted along the property line adjacent to the sidewalk, instead of at the curb, when sidewalks are wide enough.

“It is quite ridiculous,” said Josephine Fanelli, school principal, who added that she has no problem with trees being planted, but that she can see no ‘rhyme or reason’ as to why the trees were planted where they were.

The principal said she believes that eventually the tree roots could grow under the school’s gate. At that point, dealing with any ramifications would become the school’s responsibility.

She added that she feels there is “a double standard” because the city decides to plant street trees, but property owners sometimes get left with the headaches they create.

The saplings were planted along a fence that encloses a three-foot grassy area that separates the school’s gym from the sidewalk, she said.

That grassy landscaped area makes the location ideal for the new tree roots to take hold, helping the overall health and longevity of the trees, read a Parks Department statement.

“We took special care in the design of these planting sites and all plantings are done in accordance with citywide tree planting regulations,” read a Parks Department statement.

“Locations against lawns, such as those along St. Theresa Avenue in front of the school, increase available rooting space, water absorption and protect the trees from opening car doors, other vehicular damage, and excessive road salt.”

The Parks Department added that utility wires located near the planting sites on St. Theresa Avenue are communication and data lines, and do not pose any safety hazard resulting from branch interference.

“The electric lines for the school are marked as being below ground and careful site selection was used to ensure these lines were avoided when tree planting occurred,” the statement concluded.

Vacca believes that planting the trees next to the property line impedes pedestrian traffic and sets a precedent he is not fond of because any homeowner could find a street tree right next to their fence.

“The city is planting these trees all over the place, but trees are always planted at the curb,” said Vacca, adding that this is the case 99.9% of the time.

The councilman said he is asking the Parks Department to reconsider the tree plantings.

This type of planting may be uncommon, but it is not without precedent.

A similar situation can be found at Boston Market, located at 3371 E. Tremont Avenue, where some trees were also planted along the property line, not at the curb.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procc‌hio@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Councilman James Vacca’s chief of staff Michael Rivadeneyra and Councilman Vacca stand next to one of the trees planted away from the curb on St. Theresa Avenue.
Photo courtesy of Councilman Vacca’s office

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