Parkway Alliance members may get official voice

It looks like political pressure applied in order to to save Pelham Parkway’s trees may be yielding results.

Members of the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance said they are closer to finalizing a deal that would give the group three slots on a Technical Working Group.

The group, consisting of arborists, engineers and now also community members, will examine the removal of every single tree that is a part of the two-year, $36 million reconstruction of the parkway.

Members of the Department of Design and Construction and the Parks Department believe that they need to remove 50 trees due to the reconstruction, and another 30 to 40 because they are either diseased or in poor condition.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca said that he has received verbal assurance from DDC and another agency that PPPA members Joseph Menta, George Zulch, and David Varenne will be appointed to the Working Group. A letter sent by six elected officials on Monday, August 23 has requested that members of the alliance be appointed to the working group.

“The letter specifically asked for Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance members to be appointed,” said Varenne. “We do not think that enough trees have been saved. The pressure we hope to put on the DDC should finesse the project with the goal of saving this oak tree or that linden tree.”

The letter to Mayor Bloomberg was signed by Vacca and Congressman Joseph Crowley, Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Zulch said he believes that the parkway is the backbone of the community, and likened removing mature trees to a damaged spinal cord that will affect the entire community surrounding Pelham Parkway.

He said that he hoped the group effort towards conservation would show that the Pelham Parkway community is strong and unified.

“This is about how the local community would experience the removal of the trees,” Zulch said. “This area really is special and we are defending its beauty. The city is looking to turn roads like these into minor highways. We don’t want to see the Pelham Parkway community as just a stop off for a highway.”

Potential Working Group member Joseph Menta said that the PPPA would like to see an Environmental Impact Assessment done for the project. To date, such a study has not been undertaken.

Varenne said the PPPA has retained an attorney to represent their views, and may pursue a legal course of action if talks between the city, elected officials and their group stall.

Community Board 11 district manager John Fratta said that the board will not be involved in the appointing of community members to the Working Group. DDC has not yet officially confirmed any of the appointments of the three PPPA members.

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