Pelham Parkway Trees Win a Restraining Order Against the City

Thumbnail image for rsz_12_pelham_parkway_in_autumn.jpg
courtesy David Varenne
By Valerie Vande Panne

Previously, we wrote about the city's plan to redo the Bronx's Pelham Parkway, including adding guardrails that would require killing at least 80 of the century-old trees lining the road. Last week, the trees -- represented by the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance and attorney William J. Madonna -- won a restraining order in Bronx County Supreme Court against the city.

The Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance has been vocal in its insistence that the trees can safely co-exist with changes to the Parkway. "We're not against safety improvements or road improvements," David Varenne, co-founder of the Alliance, told the Voice, "but we want it done with the foremost care. [The trees are] a defining character of the Bronx. They add to the property value and desirability to the neighborhood."

Adds Madonna, "The trees are not doing a tap dance into the middle of the street. They aren't reaching down and grabbing cars."

The Alliance took their case to court, requesting that the city stop all construction, remove all construction vehicles, and not cut down any trees. They asked the city to have a third party perform and release environmental impact statements about the project. They also requested the city appoint a lead agency to administer the entire project, since there's been some apparent confusion on which agency, exactly, is ultimately responsible.

The temporary injunction prevents the project from moving forward as long as the case is pending. Only regular maintenance work is now permitted on the Parkway. The case will go to trial on November 5 to determine whether the city can proceed with the project as planned.

"The city should do what the law requires, which is a full environmental impact statement," says Madonna. "[The city says] they don't need one because it's a roadway." The NYC Law Department, for their part, says that "the city complied with the environmental review obligations applicable to this project."

"It's a shame they have to go to court," former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern told us. "The city should protect its trees without adding...court."


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