It is a fact that eighty percent (80%) of the trees that were infested with the Asian Longhorned Beetle were in the Greenpoint 11222 zip code area of Community Board 1. The Greenpoint backyard and street trees alone account for fifty-one percent (51.5%) of the loss. No alternatives were chosen to contain or eliminate the beetle except the complete eradication of mature trees which had brought great value to the residences and parkland. A one for one replacement of our grand trees was never considered an acceptable solution. We were relieved after our Feb 16th rally when $2.7 million was made available for almost a 3 to 1 replanting ratio for all impacted areas. Not nearly wood for wood, but the ability to lessen the harsh impact the tree removal has taken on Greenpoint. Community Board 1's lack of compassion for Greenpoint's hardship and disregard for the neighborhood's overwhelming loss is reflected in their lack of support to allocate funds proportionately throughout the impacted zones. The Board's plan to develop strategies that do not reflect the heavy concentration of lost canopy in Greenpoint is inappropriate. This type of planting strategy will leave Greenpoint with what it feared all along, an inadequate tree replacement. The fund's purpose was for restoration after the Asian beetle tree loss, not a Community Board wide tree planting program.
This is not the first instance that the Community Board has interfered with the progress of the tree restoration project. A Regreening Committee initiated by Commissioner Henry Stern on March 2 has held weekly meetings where many residents of the community, the Parks
Dept., and landscape professionals, have come together. One of the first agendas was the spring planting. Marcy Boyle, chair of CB#1's Ad Hoc Committee on the Asian Longhorned Beetle, tried vigorously to prevent the spring planting. Fortunately, Neighborhood Roots contacted all homeowners who had lost trees and with the overwhelming response from the residents who desperately wanted their trees back, the spring planting did proceed. Ms. Boyle's actions stalled the process by a few weeks and are believed by many to have endangered the lives of some of the trees due to the delayed planting schedule.
In April, Community Board 1 set up their own voting committee to which John Kupiec, Neighborhood Roots co-founder, was appointed. Neighborhood Roots and many Greenpoint residents objected immediately to the composition of this voting committee. In light of the fact that the most severely impacted community was Greenpoint, it was unjust that Greenpoint had less than 50% of the vote. From the start, it was undemocratic. Requests for additional representation were made to Marcy Boyle and Chairman Vincent Abate (CB#1), but requests were denied. The offices of Councilman Ken Fisher, Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Borough President liaison to Community Boards, Harold Nass were asked to intervene, but to no avail.
There is a need to create budgets from the funding to insure that all neighborhoods' parks, streets and backyards affected by the Asian Beetle are compensated fairly during this replanting effort. There is a necessity to mitigate the impact the tree removal has taken on each neighborhood's tree canopy, each area's real estate values, as well as the devastating environmental implications that such a loss of so many large trees will have. The Community Board's continued resistance to join in discussions where specifics of allocation of funds are addressed causes confusion and endangers the success of the tree restoration.
A few Community Board members have even suggested planting trees outside the impacted areas. Statements of a surplus of funds implying that Greenpoint could not possibly find spaces for the trees if a 3 to 1 ratio is adhered to are absolutely false. The amount of funding presently available is finite, and only affords a responsible regreening of each community impacted by the Asian Beetle.
Surely, there are other areas of the Community Board where trees could be planted and additional resources need to be rallied for to do those projects. Residents should be aware that every Community Board already has funds made available to it for tree planting by the Parks Dept. For the past two years, our Board's budget has been 300 new trees each year.
Neighborhood Roots has completed a survey of all existing trees in the impacted areas. Maps were developed along with statistics which are useful for an equitable regreening in each impacted neighborhood. A regreening plan detailing the number of trees that could be planted on each block with the funding available was created.
When Neighborhood Roots presented the statistics, Ms. Boyle of CB#1 made accusations regarding the integrity of the data and would not engage in a discussion about creating budgets for each neighborhood. Two days later, John Kupiec received a letter from Community Board One stating that he was removed from the Community Board voting committee without explanation, further diminishing Greenpoint's representation.
It is obvious that Greenpoint has been devastated by the Asian Beetle and it appears that the Community Board seems intent on seeing that it remains so.