"Crimes Against Nature:" The NYC Parks Department

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Another story appeared over the weekend in the New York Times(3/22) “In a City Park, a Crime Against Nature” about the killing of 35 cedar trees in Inwood Hill Park.

I’m amazed at the ability of the Parks Department to spin things.

Forestry worker Katerli Bounds, who discovered the “ruined cedars,” told the Times, “It’s kind of disheartening.”

Well, yeah. It was kind of disheartening when the Parks Department slaughtered 11 old trees at Washington Square Park for the misguided decision to “align” the fountain with the Arch. It was kind of disheartening when the Bronx lost 300 to 400 trees at two parks for building of a new Yankee Stadium. It was kind of disheartening when Parks Department destroyed 105 trees at East River Park during its “reconstruction.” It was kind of disheartening to learn that Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe wants to cut down 14 majestic trees at Union Square Park to make room for Danny Meyer, who is also on the board of the Union Square Partnership – the local BID(business improvement district), to have a restaurant there in the historic pavilion.

Disheartening?

If the 35 trees slaughtered at Inwood Hill Park are deemed arborcide, then I’d say that Parks Commissioner Benepe has quite a record on his hands.

How is it against the law for a stranger to kill 35 trees on City Parks land and yet for the Parks Department — in the interest of privatization of our Parks — to ax multiple numbers (tens. hundreds. thousands.) of healthy trees, that is just fine?

How does one qualify as arborcide with a fine and jail time and the other doesn’t?

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In other Parks news, Metro reported on March 20th, that the cost for building replacement parkland “as part of the controversial Yankee Stadium project has jumped 122 percent since 2006 — and 280 percent since the team first proposed taking Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks in 2004.”

(At Washington Square Park, budget for Phase I alone has jumped from $6 million to $13 million. Original total budget for two phases of this unwanted “plan”: $16 million.)

Commissioner Benepe stated at the City Council hearing on Wednesday 3/19 that the Parks Department is “committed to replacing parkland” with tree replacement of 8000 trees “to mitigate the ones cut” in the Bronx for the Stadium.

Benepe stated, “It’s going to be hard to find room to plant all the trees we plan to plant.”

(That sounds like responsible policy, doesn’t it?)

At Washington Square Park, in Phase I alone, they stated up to 16 trees are up for chopping (11 thus far) but there would be up to 39 REPLACEMENT trees. That’s 23 additional trees. So it’s all good — according to the Parks Department and the City Council. Except it’s not.

Parks Department Commissioner Benepe’s spin is clever and it’s manipulative. He cannot cavalierly advocate for the destruction of our city trees — and for the destruction of our city, via endless privatization and homogenization of public space — and then state that it’s magically okay because there will be “new trees planted.” The Parks Department is supposed to act as STEWARDS for the trees, NOT — as per Mayor Bloomberg’s directive — for Danny Meyer and the Tisch Family and NYU.

When will this end? And how do we get this to stop?

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