by Joseph Vance
Ours is a heavily trafficked community, with the ever backed-up BQE, a steady stream of big rigs on Kent Ave. and Franklin St., and heavy traffic on McGuinness Blvd., in addition to several other "short cuts" used to get to and from the BQE. The one practical means of reducing this pollution is the cleansing action of trees. It is the size of the canopy, (the overall area of all the leaves), that determines how much air each tree "scrubs". In the past several weeks, most of you have, no doubt, become aware of a debate regarding the replanting of trees lost to the Asian Beetle devastation. The key to this debate is the amount of air scrubbing canopy we lost when the trees were cut down, and how much of that we can get back by planting new trees. The fact of the matter is, using the Parks Department inventory of the sizes of the trees lost, even if we spent every dollar of the funds available in the area that lost trees, we would still have 30% less canopy than we did 7 months ago. The plan adopted by the Community Board takes 50% of the funding away from the impacted area. Unfortunately, this simple fact has not even been a point of discussion in the plans prepared by our local community board, which seems to be bent on a "no holds barred" effort to impose its plan.
There is no doubt the CB#1 plan short changes not only Greenpoint, but the areas of Williamsburg that lost trees to the beetle. Why the Community Board thinks this is "fair", I cannot say. Just as troubling as the plan, is the way the Community Board is going about trying to force the plan into reality. They have been on a letter writing campaign to the elected officials, telling them that a "small group" of Greenpoint residents have been "deliberately and maliciously disruptive". The publication "Waterfront Week" where board member Inez Pasher is the Advertising Director, has gone much farther in their editorials, referring to the Greenpoint residents who oppose CB#1's plan as miscreants, disseminators of lies, users of Joe McCarthy tactics, divisive, contemptible political operatives, etc., etc.
The Board had sent a letter to every resident who requested a replacement tree, urging them to call Commissioner Stern, (and listing his number), to complain, suggesting the Parks Department may not "honor" their requests to replant trees, or that it may take 10 years, (which is not true). The Parks Department is on schedule and will be planting trees in accordance with the three season contract registered earlier this year. It seems to me that if the Community Board was truly genuine in its declared goal of lining every street in CB#1 with trees, it would not be wise to attack the Parks Department with accusations of incompetence. I also just obtained minutes from the August 13th Community Board meeting where the Board presented and voted on its plan. During that meeting Councilman Victor Robles challenged the Community Board for their actions regarding this issue. He posed the question that if a community board wide reforestation plan was important enough to the Community Board that they feel it necessary to draw funds away from the area impacted by the beetle, why then was funding for additional trees not on their "Statement of Needs" presented to him in June, where the Community Board requests funding for important issues. Mr. Robles statements regarding this were changed dramatically in the printed version, to the point it is no longer a critical comment. The minutes also fail to record the formal comments on the plan given by myself and five others who gave testimony at the public hearing.
If anyone is creating an aura of divisiveness around the tree issue, all the evidence points to the Community Board, directly or indirectly, as the source. I am sure someone will respond to this article, declaring this part or that to be untrue. Unfortunately, unless you have attended all of these meetings to witness the events first hand, it is quite difficult to "prove" every point. However each of you reading this article does have the ability to "sense" what is wrong and what is right. I would ask you to consider the following. Those of us who believe the area that lost trees to the beetle, who have been working to try and simply "get back what we lost", have always argued the issue alone. While voices have had to be raised in order to be heard, we have never reverted to "name calling", or other tactics such as those noted earlier.
Granted, several political representatives have endorsed the Community Board plan. However those officials were not made aware there is community opposition to the plan, or the reasons the plan is flawed. The supporters of the community board are trying very hard to convey the idea that residents of Greenpoint are being "greedy", and are trying to claim more than their "fair share". Councilman Robles quite eloquently stated at the August 13th CB#1 meeting that this was not about "fair share" but about repairing damage from a devastation. It is a fact that all of Community Board One is woefully unforested. The community board should take the advice of Councilman Robles. Declare funding for a community board-wide reforestation to be a number one priority on the Statement of Needs to the city, and develop a plan, such as the one they have for implementing it, using funds specifically for that purpose. However, for now, do not take advantage of a disaster and require the impacted areas of BOTH Greenpoint and Williamsburg to lose more than they have to. We simply want to get back what we lost.
The author is an architect with both a home and a business in the neighborhood.