Rally continues vigorous fight for Parkway trees

Community leaders will be there every step of the way to save the beautiful mature lindens and oaks on Pelham Parkway from the axe.

On Saturday, August 28, members of the Pelham Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance held a protest rally at Peace Plaza with a group of speakers including Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, Councilman Jimmy Vacca, Community Board 11 member Joe McManus, and many others.

Alliance member George Zulch said that he is especially concerned that roots of healthy trees may be damaged during the reconstruction of Pelham Parkway over the next two years. He is worried that heavy equipment used in the project could damage bark and crush roots.

“With the trees, it is all about the roots,” Zulch said. “There have to be safeguards in order to regulate the contractors who work on the project. We need to make sure that wooden corals are built around all trees and that heavy equipment is kept out of the ‘drip zones’ of the trees, which are where the roots are located.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca annouced at the rally that the Department of Design and Construction has agreed to put three community members on the Technical Working Group, which will examine the reasons behind the removal of each tree. In response to community uproar, DDC formed the Technical Working Group made up of engineers and arborists, which will examine the removal of each tree.

Vacca said that the community must be vigilant because no trees are slated for removal from the parkway until the beginning of 2012, in the later stages of this project.

“We are in this for the long haul,” Vacca said. “It is very important to have members of the community on the oversight group who will be there until 2012 so we can make sure that no trees are cut down that don’t need to be cut for the project.”

Vacca said that having community involved on the oversight committee of aborists and engineers should save as many trees as possible. At the same time, he said it should improve saftey for pedestrians and motorists.

Currently, there are 83 trees slated to be removed as part of a $36 million reconstruction of Pelham Parkway. According to the current census, there are 452 trees in the work area and 43 trees are slated for removal for installation of guard rails. An additional 23 are to be removed because they are diseased or in poor condition, and seven trees will get the axe for the construction of exit lanes at Lurting and Wilson avenues.

On Friday, August 27, DDC commissioner David Burney, Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe, and other officials visited Pelham Parkway South to speak about the need for to create a two-foot clearance between the trees and wood-paneled guardrails being installed along the length of the parkway.

“We are grateful and appreciative of the community’s interest in the trees,” Benepe said at the walkthrough. “My heart is warmed by neighbors who care about trees that are such an important part of their community.”

Both Regis Philbin and former NYC Parks commissioner Henry Stern have come to the defense of Pelham Parkway’s trees. They believe they must be spared at all costs.

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