Uproar after city slaughters hundreds of trees at NYCHA housing project
Manhattan’s largest housing project has turned into a tree graveyard, with more than 200 mature hardwoods cut to stumps by the city.
Over the last month, chainsaw crews swarmed the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side, taking down huge shade trees and planting orange traffic cones where they once stood across the project’s 27 acres.
A New York City Housing Authority spokesman said it was part of the city’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy, which inundated the development by the East River in 2012, causing $78 million in damage.
Some of the housing project’s more than 5,300 residents and those who work in the area worried that NYCHA was cutting down the trees in order to make space for more market-rate development in the area as part of a controversial luxury development plan that NYCHA is considering in order to help fund improvements to public housing.
Some in the neighborhood complained that they were not properly informed about the city’s plan to chop down trees.
“It’s a terrible thing to kill healthy, living trees,” said a NYCHA worker at the complex who did not want to be identified. “I asked a NYCHA official why this was happening, and no reason was given.”
One longtime resident was so upset about the tree slaughter that he put up posters trying to get his neighbors to protest. At night, he tore off the yellow ribbons that city workers tied to the trees that were slated for destruction, the worker told The Post.
“He did it at night, but he just couldn’t keep up because the city was cutting down trees with a great deal of vigor,” said the worker. “They really wanted to get rid of them fast.”
A NYCHA spokesman told The Post that the massive tree removal is part of a citywide Superstorm Sandy recovery program at 35 NYCHA properties financed by a $3 billion FEMA grant.
The Baruch Houses will get heating plants and sewer upgrades, as well as the construction of a Con Edison high-pressure steam line, and repairs to storm-damaged buildings, according to a NYCHA press release. The trees’ roots were in the way of underground pipes that NYCHA needs to install throughout the complex, he said.
The felled trees are scheduled to be replaced once the Sandy repair work is completed in 2022, the spokesman told The Post.
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