Pelham Bay community critizes planting

Recently planted saplings just north of Pelham Bay Station next to Burr Avenue (above) will make the area beautiful, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation. Photo by Victor Chu

While trees produce oxygen and are overall beneficial to the environment, some community residents in one corner of Pelham Bay feel that it might be more beneficial if they were not placed in open areas often used for make-up soccer games and Sunday afternoon strolling.

The Department of Parks and Recreation planted saplings, including red maple, hackbury, black birch, pin oak, and eastern red bud in a grassy area below Burr Avenue and just north of the Pelham Bay IRT train station on Saturday, November 8, but many residents are saying that the trees should instead be planted along the side of Burr Avenue, buffering the annoying sound from the Bruckner Expressway.

Members of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers and Community Association, including its president Ed Romeo, share this line of thought.

“We thought planting trees along the side of Burr Avenue facing the highway, and also along Pelham Parkway South in Pelham Bay, would serve as a sound barrier, similar to one planted along Bruckner Boulevard between Coddington and Baisley avenues recently,” Romeo said.

Instead, parks decided to plant the trees in broad grassy area where there are sidewalks and which area the children use to play soccer. Parks defends the decision.

“These trees will provide tremendous benefits to the neighborhood and its residents, including slowing global climate change, protecting water quality, improving air quality, lowering summer air temperatures, and reducing air pollutants that can trigger asthma and other respiratory illnesses,” said Jesslyn Tiao Moser, Parks Department spokeswoman.

A number of sidewalks run through the formerly wide-open area, which without any obstructions remains safe and visible from all nearby roads, and is lit well at night. Parks maintains that the trees will not jeopardize safety in the area.

“Safety is our first priority and the grove of trees has purposefully been designed without shrubs or low lying herbaceous plants to ensure clear sight lines in the area when the trees mature,” Moser said.

Romeo, who lives near Pelham Bay station, disagrees.

“If those saplings are allowed to grow in the green area north of Pelham Bay Station and west of Burr Avenue, it is going to create a hazard, not only potentially for crime, but as a haven for the homeless,” Romeo said. “In addition, when the trees mature we would most likely have skunks and raccoons living in the brush created by the trees.”

Romeo said that he feels that parks should uproot the saplings right now and replant them against a retaining wall separating Burr Avenue from the green space. Giving the Parks Department’s stringent rules about never cutting down a tree once it is mature, Romeo feels that the trees need to be uprooted and replanted as soon as possible.

More from Around NYC