Parkway Tree Advocates sit down with city’s lawyers

The Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance and the city representatives met behind closed doors to hammer out a deal to avoid a prolonged legal battle.

The closed door meeting took place at Councilman Jimmy Vacca’s office on Thursday, November 4. It included representatives from the grassroots PPPA group trying to save more than 70 healthy trees near and around Pelham Parkway from the ax during a $36 million, two-year parkway reconstruction project, as well as representatives from the Mayor’s office, Parks Department, and other city agencies.

The PPPA’s lawsuit to block any construction until the city commits to saving more trees is currently before Judge Robert Torres at Bronx Supreme Court, where the PPPA has won a “stay” or injunction, delaying the project.

The suit has been temporarily been held in conference while both sides negotiate.The PPPA wants specifics in writing as to which trees will be cut down during the project, and other guarantees like a say in what kind of trees will be planted when about 246 saplings are planted during the final stages of the project.

Vacca said that he was approached by the Mayor’s Office and asked if he could arrange the meeting.

“The meeting was well attended by all the city agencies and I think we had a good exchange of views,” Vacca said. “I think that the city understands that the PPPA wants to save as many mature trees as possible. There should be correspondence between the city and the PPPA, and hopefully we can come to some kind of an agreement.”

Vacca said he believes that the actions the PPPA took brought the issue of preserving mature trees along the parkway and preserving its natural beauty to the top of the city’s agenda. He also said that he fully understands that a sewer project, which will install a new drainage system along the length of the parkway as part of the reconstruction, is also something that is needed.

“It predates my time in the City Council,” Vacca said. “Community Board 11 has been requesting new sewers along the parkway for the past 15 years.”

Jason Post, a spokesman for the Mayor’s office, said that the meeting went well and he is hoping for positive outcome. PPPA lawyer William Madonna said that the details of the closed door meeting must be kept confidential, unless an agreement cannot be reached.

Madonna said that Judge Torres urged both sides to continue to negotiate, and granted a continuance until Friday, November 12, when the next conference between the PPPA and City lawyers is scheduled to take place.

“I am hopeful that we are going to have a resolution that allows the project to begin and accomplishes what my clients want, which is saving the maximum amount of trees near and around the parkway,” Madonna said. “We are awaiting more specific details from the city. It was a good, positive meeting and we think we are on the right track.”

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