Vacca, Diaz, Crowley, Klein, Rivera & Benedetto Seek Community Input on Working Group and Reassessment of Guardrail Design and Tree Health

In an open letter to Mayor Bloomberg sent earlier today, a group of Bronx elected officials representing the Pelham Parkway community are seeking a reassessment of City plans to remove 80 trees as part of the Pelham Parkway Reconstruction project. The letter is signed by Council Member James Vacca, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Congressman Joseph Crowley, State Senator Jeff Klein, Assembly Member Naomi Rivera, and Assembly Member Michael Benedetto.

The Pelham Parkway Reconstruction is a $36 million capital project led by the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to improve the road and sewer network on one of the borough’s main east-west thoroughfares. The City plans to remove up to 50 trees to make way for a guardrail along the parkway; an additional 30 to 40 trees have been designated by the Department of Parks and Recreation as unhealthy and in need of removal.

The joint letter asks the Mayor to:

  • Incorporate community voices into its internal tree-removal review by appointing three representatives of the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance to sit on the recently formed DDC Technical Working Group.
  • Address the assertion made by former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern that an alternate guardrail design could save dozens of trees.
  • Consider redesigning the sewer reconstruction project on the Pelham Parkway South service road in an effort to save otherwise healthy street trees.
  • Immediately re-evaluate the need to remove 30 to 40 trees designated by the Department of Parks & Recreation as unhealthy or deceased.

Council Member James Vacca said: “The community has made its voice loud and clear on this issue, and it is time for the City to address this matter with the urgency it deserves. By the Department of Design and Construction making minor adjustments to its designs, and the Parks Department allowing more trees to mature naturally, I believe we can save many of the trees currently slated for removal and keep the beauty of Pelham Parkway intact.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said: “I understand the concerns of the many Bronxites who have contacted my office to protest the removal of trees along Pelham Parkway. The recommendations as outlined in this joint letter would ensure both that the collective voice of the community is heard and that as few trees as possible are removed from Pelham Parkway during the course of construction. With smart planning, we can see to it that Pelham Parkway is not only made safer for drivers and pedestrians alike but that it retains its character as a beautiful parkway.”

Congressman Joseph Crowley said: “Pelham Parkway and its surrounding natural beauty truly is a Bronx treasure. While improvements to ensure pedestrian and vehicle safety on the parkway are needed, it is also important to explore every option to save as many trees as possible and to minimize the impact on the environment.”

State Senator Jeff Klein said: “I am confident that by working with the city and the residents of the Pelham Parkway area we can make sure that no tree is removed needlessly and that those who are fighting to maintain the beauty of the area be involved in part of the process. The community deserves accountability regarding what’s going on in their backyard and I hope the movement by the city to create this working group shows they believe this as well. I hope other city agencies and the mayor continue to move forward with addressing the concerns laid out in this letter and voiced by the many residents of Pelham Parkway.”

Assembly Member Naomi Rivera said: “While we agree that public safety is a priority, we urge officials to exhaust all measures in aiding the preservation of trees on Pelham Parkway through transparent decisions that are inclusive of the community being affected. The trees on Pelham Parkway are a tremendous asset to our quality of life and we have a responsibility to ensure that future generations can enjoy them.”

Assembly Member Michael R. Benedetto said: “It takes too long for trees to grow to maturity for any tree to be cut down unless absolutely necessary. We must take great care if we are going to remove them, to protect their natural beauty and the oxygen that they bring us. We are asking the city to take a fresh look at the Pelham Parkway project and to take community concerns into account so we do not needlessly alter the character of this beautiful jewel of the Bronx.”

Click here to download the letter.