‘Stakeholders’ duke it out over Parkway trees

A “stakeholders” meeting about the Pelham Parkway Reconstruction project has at last brought together conservation advocates with city officials that want to see the project move forward as quickly as possible.

The Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance continues to protest the removal of more than 70 mature trees, and is trying to save as many as possible. They made their voices heard during a Q & A session with city officials at Jacobi Medical Center on Friday, September 24.

George Zulch, one of the founding members of the Alliance, which may engage in litigation to save the trees slated for removal, said that he was disheartened to hear about the installation of curbs that will cut 30 inches into the ground next to the main roadways.

Zulch believes this may damage the roots of trees close to the roadway, effectively killing them.

“The 30-inch curb cuts along the main roadways, as well as the 18-inch curb cuts down into the ground on the service roads, can destroy the roots of many of the trees,” Zulch said. “The meeting was a very positive interaction, but we have some real concerns. We need to discuss curb cuts with the engineers on the projects. The contractors are just chomping at the bit to get going, but the way the plans are right now, they are not going to fly with us.”

Zulch said that root damage is the biggest cause of death for trees. While he was disheartened to hear the plans about digging deep beside the roadway, he said he was glad to hear that Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte would not allow contractors to store their heavy construction trucks along the parkway during construction.

“That is very important, because one of the ways trees die is that vehicles are stored on grass and compress the roots,” Zulch said.

Also at the meeting, Wayan Brown was appointed Community Construction Liaison by the Department of Design and Construction and will be available to address community concerns during the entire process, which should last from the fall of 2010 to the fall of 2012.

Brown can be reached at (718) 829-0128.

The first phase of the project will include the reconstruction of Pelham Parkway South and the eastbound main roadway. Hours of construction will be Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Final roadway paving will take place at night, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Community Board 11 district manager John Fratta said the meeting went well, and that there would be a second planning meeting, open to the public, tentatively scheduled for Monday, October 18.

“I think even the Alliance members began to see the scope of this project, though I am sure they are going to continue to hold the city’s feet to fire,” Fratta said. “Hopefully, by the October meeting everyone will come to an understanding that no one is looking to take down trees for the fun of it.”

Fratta stressed that the points the PPPA is making are valid, and that the city has to address them.

DDC assistant commissioner Matthew Monahan also felt the meeting was productive.

“It was a welcome opportunity to demonstrate to the community and city agencies the long planning that has gone into the project,” said Monahan.

“And we showed our pledge to build a safe roadway that retains the largest number of trees possible.”

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