Parkway tree preservation group to raise $$ to fight tree removal

A legal fight is now brewing to save as many Pelham Parkway trees as possible from being cut down during reconstruction. The Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance is holding a fundraiser on Monday, November 1 to fight for the parkway trees.

The PPPA, which formed earlier in this year to protest the removal of more than 70 mature trees from Pelham Parkway during a $36 million reconstruction project, has now taken the city to court and won a temporary injunction against the project. They are planning a fundraiser to offset legal fees, and help with the formation of a legal, non-profit group that could help improve the community, safety, and environment along the parkway no matter what the outcome of the legal fight.

The fundraiser will be on November 1 at 5 p.m. at the Williamsbridge Bar and Grill at 2107 Williamsbridge Road between Pelham Parkway South and Lydig Avenue. A minimum $40 donation is required and the fundraiser should include food, drink, and an informal gathering of elected officials and supporters who are committed to making sure that the city only removes those trees necessary for the completition of the project. All of this begins with incorprating the PPPA as a non profit.

“We are trying to formalize ourselves as a non profit so we can accept grants,” said PPPA organizer Joe Menta. “Other than the legal fight, we believe that we can be a group that preserves the parkway and makes sure that it receives the proper maintenance.”

Menta said that this could include more landscaping by the Parks Department, which he said only does minor pruning and grass cutting. He would like to see the bike lanes along the parkway widened, and sinkholes filled in. Right now, the Allerton Avenue Homeowners & Tenants Association has stepped up, Menta said, and has served as the fiscal conduit for all fundraising.

PPPA organizer David Varenne said that those interested in making a donation can contact the group through its Facebook page or mail a check to the Allerton Avenue Homeowners & Tenants Association at 1415 Allerton Avenue. Those making a donation to the PPPA can just make a notion on the memo section of the check, Varenne said.

Varenne also said that community help is needed, because he, Menta, and Dr. George Zulch have been paying legal and other expenses out of pocket. They now need the community to step up.

“It cannot just be the three of us organizing the PPPA,” Varenne said. “The community has to decide whether it is important for them to see Pelham Parkway preserved. There are million-dollar-houses along Pelham Parkway, and this would seem to be an investment the owners of those houses would like to see protected. Property values will go down if the parkway is defaced or turned into a construction site.”

Menta stressed that the group is not anti-development, but wants to see development that preserves as many mature trees along the parkway as possible. The current plans call for the Department of Design and Construction and Parks Department to remove more than 70 during the construction project, which should last until 2012.

“We want the reconstruction project to go through, but we want it to happen with extra caution and care,” Menta said. “Our engineers are going through the city’s reconstruction plans, and we are finding all kinds of design flaws.”

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