Parks Dept. says no to changing tree program despite complaints from Howard Beach residents

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One of the newly planted trees on 159th Avenue and 91st Street in Howard Beach.Photo courtesy of Gabriella Licata
One of the newly planted trees on 159th Avenue and 91st Street in Howard Beach.

SALVATORE LICATA

The Parks Department rejected Howard Beach residents’ plea of changing the system of planting trees in the neighborhood, known as the one million tree initiative. Currently, residents may request a tree to be planted in front of their homes but may not refuse a planting, a point of contention for more than two dozen residents.

Due to recent complaints, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder has urged the department to implement a system where residents will be given the option to have a tree planted in front of their homes prior to it being planted.

But doing so would be too complicated, according to Zachary Feder, a spokesman for the Parks Department.

“NYC Parks is always willing to consider location and species suggestions,” Feder said.

“However trees work best as a system, and eliminating planting sites or allowing homeowners to opt out would undermine the effectiveness of this system and significantly reduce the environmental benefit.”

The trees are being placed on city property, but once planted maintaining them and raking the leaves that fall from the trees on to the sidewalk are the residents’ responsibility.

When Superstorm Sandy roared through the area it tore down trees, which damaged houses, power lines and sidewalks, leaving some residents wary of new trees being placed in front of their houses.

“Many residents are still recovering from Sandy and should be involved in the process that will revitalize their neighborhood,” Goldfeder said.

Feder said the new trees will be better suited for storm conditions.

“In recent years, we have implemented new planting techniques on streets to make the new trees we plant less susceptible to storm damage and less likely to lift up sidewalks,” Feder said.

The MillionTreesNYC initiative is a citywide project, and is not just going on in neighborhoods that were affected by Sandy. The Parks Department plans to plant about 220,000 trees on public streets, which will increase the city’s urban forest, “our most valuable environmental asset,” according to the department’s website.

It also says these new trees will help to capture storm water, reduce air pollution and moderate temperatures.

Despite the protests, the Parks Department said it will continue to plant trees around the neighborhood.

 

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