Neighbors mourn lost mature trees cut down in P.S. 14 expansion

What was once a shaded area with many grown trees, right next to P.S. 14, was mostly cut down recently in preparation for an expansion of the school.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

Many in the Waterbury-LaSalle community continue to oppose the size of an addition to P.S. 14, especially after at least two-dozen mature trees were cut down to make way for the extension.

A work crew recently cut down the trees, located on NYC Department of Education property to the right of P.S. 14, according to neighbors and the Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association.

Local residents, who objected to the size of the expansion and their lack of input into the process, said they lamented the loss of the green oasis.

The School Construction Authority-approved arborcide occurred on Thursday, August 18.

Next-door neighbor Romana Campisi, who was vocally opposed to the expansion in its current form, said that no notification was given before the trees, some of which had stood for half a century, were leveled.

“The day they knocked down the trees, we were just looking on in awe,” said Campisi, adding “Why take away the area’s beauty?”

The homeowner said that she had hoped the project would have been modified to be less impactful on the surrounding community.

She said she feels let down by the process and Councilman James Vacca, who approved the current design, and still doesn’t know how close the new building will come to her property.

“I think (the city) did it in such a way where they didn’t tell us everything about this project until it was already in the works,” said Campisi, noting that by May, the blueprints were already finalized and the contract awarded.

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified because of a relationship with DOE, said that trees were ‘massacred’ and that it now looks like a ‘wasteland.’

The WLCA was opposed to the size of the building and supported a smaller expansion of the school.

WLCA board member Andrew Chirico said that they wanted to work with the DOE and SCA to develop an L-shaped building plan that would have avoided destroying the trees.

“They could have built towards Crosby Avenue,” said Chirico. “We would have saved all of these trees and we could have kept the greenery and the look of the neighborhood.”

WLCA wrote to city officials about their L-shaped design idea, and got a response stating that this could not be done because it would disrupt the portable classrooms in the schoolyard at the start, rather than the end, of the project, said Chirico.

Instead, the expanded school is expected to run along Hollywood Avenue, according to an artist rendering.

Mary Jane Musano, another WLCA board member, said that she had tried to reach out to high-ranking DOE personnel to no avail.

A local resident noted the starkness of the area also and was noticeably saddened by it.

“The specialness of the wooded area next to the school is gone,” said Country Club resident Marcia Pavlica. “I know it is in the name of progress and they had to come down, but it is a loss.”

Both SCA and DOE did not respond as of press time to requests for comment.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
A view of what was once a lovely patch of green in the city.
Photo courtesy of the Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association

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