Tree concerns on parkway

Local Pelham Parkway activists are gearing up for a possible fight as they await word on whether the city plans to lay down a sidewalk on the northern mall side of the parkway.

Members of the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance, a grassroots group that has banded together since 2010 to save as many trees as possible during the ongoing Pelham Parkway reconstruction project, are concerned about as-yet-finalized plans to build a sidewalk opposite homes along Pelham Parkway North.

The move would require the city Department of Design and Construction to alienate parkland, requiring approval of the Parks Department or the state legislature.

Alliance members fear that if a sidewalk along the greenway side winds up as part of the final design, it could damage the roots of existing trees along the parkway.

“It would kill trees, because…the root systems are right there,” said George Zulch, one of the leaders of the PPPA. “Some of the trees would actually have to go.”

The PPPA is currently planning a Sept. 28 march and rally to protest what they see as the indecision of the DDC and other city agencies to craft a final plan for Pelham Parkway North’s reconstruction.

A sidewalk along the northside greenway was floated by the City at a planning meeting, said Zulch.

The march will start at 1 p.m. at Pelham Parkway and Stillwell Avenue, and proceed to Peace Memorial Plaza at Pelham Parkway North and Williamsbridge Road, where the rally will be held.

“Our suspicion is that they are planning to go ahead with the sidewalk and spring it on the public,” said Zulch.

If that happens, he said, it would leave the organization with only a few months to protest the plans.

Community Board 11 chairman Anthony Vitaliano said that the Department of Design and Construction is supposed to meet with the board prior to approving any final plans for the north-side reconstruction.

“We don’t have a clue right now,” said Vitaliano. “We won’t have any idea until they call us up and say ‘These are the plans.’”

A DDC spokesman said that no firm decision has been made.

“The Pelham Parkway North project is still in the design phase,” they said. “At this time, parkland alienation is not being considered.”

They also added that “Throughout the course of this project, we will take great care to preserve the Parkway’s canopy of mature trees.”

Zulch said that he believed that a good area to focus on would be repairs to an asphalt center bike lane and walking path in serious need of repair.

Zulch said he would not rule out the city trying to narrow the service road, which already raised an outcry from residents along the south service road of the parkway, fearing the narrowed street might block emergency vehicles.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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