Saturday, August 14, 2010

DOT To Kill 87 Pelham Parkway Trees - Official Insults Regis Philbin

The city plans to cut down 87 trees, like those above, along Pelham Parkway to make room for a guardrail. The road had 185 accidents in the first half of 2009, and a fatality two weeks ago.

The city plans to cut down 87 trees, like those above, along Pelham Parkway to make room for a guardrail. The road had 185 accidents in the first half of 2009, and a fatality two weeks ago. Opponents of the plan say killing the trees is not necessary. (Photo: 
Ip for the Daily News)


By Geoffrey Croft

The Department of Transportation's (DOT) controversial plan to destroy 87 trees along the Pelham Parkway in the Bronx spilled onto the national stage this week when TV host Regis Philbin tackled the issue on his morning showLive with Regis and Kelly.  Mr. Philbin spoke passionately about the trees and about growing up near the Parkway when he was a child. 

"Leave those trees alone!"  Regis Philbin exclaimed. "Why in the world would they have to remove 87 beautiful mature, lovely trees that have been there for years, and all of my life. And it's going to cost the city—us—$36 million?"

When contacted by The Daily News about the controversy, an assistant commissioner for the Department of Design and Construction made a joke and then attempted to portray Mr. Philbin as being uniformed about the issue (a tactic not uncommon under this administration when one dares to disagree).

"At first I thought he was being out-Regis," joked Matthew Monahan, assistant commissioner for the Department of Design and Construction (DDC). "But it later appeared he was not fully briefed on the plan. Public safety is the city's absolute top priority here."

In fact Mr. Philbin did mention the agency's reason for the destruction of the trees on air—he just didn't agree with it—a fact Mr. Monahan apparently ignored when speaking to the reporter in attempting to justify DOT's plan.  

The TV host read a letter  published in the New York Post written by former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, which, to no one's surprise, did not criticize the Parks Department for giving DOT permission to destroy the trees. The DOT argues the destruction of the trees is necessary in order to install guardrails, siting a number of accidents along the parkway.  No alternative has been made available by the Bloomberg administration. 

"There is a plan to put a guardrail on the side of the road, to protect drivers who fall asleep, drive drunk, or don’t know where the road is," Mr. Stern wrote.  "The guardrail would also protect the trees, which are scuffed and gashed by the clumsy or irresponsible drivers.  

It is not a physical necessity to remove the trees in order to install the guardrail. It is a convenience for the contractor. 

When we called DOT to inquire about the removal of the trees, we were told that DDC was in charge of the project," Mr. Stern wrote in a follow up letter on August 12, 2010.  "When we called DDC, we were told that the trees were on park land. When we called Parks, we were told that the reconstruction had been initiated by DOT. This round robin of avoiding accountability would be comedic if it didn't involve the destruction of trees that are older than most people.

It also appears that no environmental assessment was ever performed on this project. According to the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) procedure, the lead agency of any city project should perform such an analysis when it would lead to "the removal or destruction of large quantities of vegetation or fauna" or "the impairment of the character or quality of important historical, archeological, architectural or aesthetic resources (including the demolition or alteration of a structure which is eligible for inclusion in an official inventory of such resources)."

The newly formed Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance, founded by Dr. George Zulch, Joseph Menta, and David Varenne, has been leading the campaign to preserve the trees. Plan opponents have collected more than 1,000 petition signatures from local residents.

The newly formed Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance can be contacted by email: and on Facebook.

The historic Pelham Parkway, known for its stately elm trees, was built in the late 19th century and created by the Grandfather of Bronx parkland, John Mullaly (1835-1915) . (The City recently repaid him for his exemplary civil service when they allowed the destruction of a large part of his namesake park to the build the new Yankee Stadium.)  At  2.3 miles long, the parkway connects two the famous parks—Bronx Park and Pelham Bay Park.

According to the Parks Department, the parkway consists of three traffic lanes going in each direction, two large center plots, one small plot, two marginal streets, a bridle path, and an aqueduct shaft. 

"An opulent thoroughfare linking two of Parks’ brightest jewels, the Bronx and Pelham Parkway, is a graceful testament to the beauty Mulally and the New Parks Act brought to the Bronx, " the agecny says on its website. 

Read More:

New York Post - August 8, 2010 - By Henry Stern

cut down by city for guardrail space
New York Daily News - August 13, 2010 -  By Mike Jaccarino

Queens Crap - August 13, 2010

Face Deracination Under City Plan
NY Cvic - August 6, 2010 - By Henry Stern

New York Daily News -  November 10, 2009 -  By Mike Jaccarino


  1. Removing the trees = higher speeds = even more deaths.

    There are better ways.

  2. The fact that no environmental assesment has been performed on this project sure sounds like a place to start. I mean, if they are not going about this project in a legitimate manner, that could be a detail worth looking into to.

  3. LEAVE THE TREES ALONE! I grew up in that area and it would be a travesty to take down any healty tree along that route. I understand that there have been accidents, but the detriment to the public health would be worse without the trees. Trees clean our air. The traffic along Pelham Parkway is horrendous. The fumes from the cars are noxious. We do not need to take down trees -- we need to plant more.

  4. I lived in the Pelham Parkway Housing Projects from 1963 to 1973 ages 1 to 11. Those were the best years of my life. Although I have been long gone, my family and I still consider it home. The trees are not the problem. The problem is the people that are not responsible enough to drive cars in that neighborhood...speeding, drunkeness, etc. This is just another round of monkey business from the city to do something that is wasteful in dollars to the taxpayers and just not necessary.