Ode to the Doomed Trees of East River Park [OP-ED]

Posted on: August 13th, 2020 at 5:05 am by

Photo: Marcia Katz Berken

The following editorial was written by Lower East Sider, Barbara Katz Rothman.

There’s something truly sad about the sight of a dead tree. Look at that photo of the tree killed by the storm last week.

We think of trees and use them as metaphors, so often, even by “urban types” like me who actually prefer city skylines to mountain views, urban bike rides to country ones. We define family with a tree, talk about our roots, or “go out on a limb” if the need calls. And while I’m not into ascribing souls to trees, it’s still sad to see one fall down.

Well, brace yourself, denizens of East River Park. A thousand are about to be killed right here.

The new plan for coastal resiliency on the Lower East Side will kill the park come fall, and eliminate the thousand or so trees that provide some manner of flood protection. The piecemeal closure of the park is slated to last five years, but we know it’ll take longer. And for all those years of park destruction – the entire childhood of some of our neighbors, the rest-of-our-lives for others – there will be only small bits of park at a time. I’ve been writing letters of objection to representatives, but getting nothing but responses telling me not to worry, it’s not happening until the fall.

Parks don’t just regrow. It isn’t the same as knocking down a building and putting up another one, itself no small task. Fresh air – courtesy of the trees – will be replaced by the dirty air of the destruction blowing across the neighborhood. Forget the migrating birds, too, as they will need to find a new home for a few years (a decade or so).

The city tells us it came up with this plan after consultation with neighborhood groups. But all the consulted groups said NO! Those of us in the neighborhood have been clear in what we want: Leave the park, build a wall, don’t kill our trees, our park, our fields, our picnic spots, our play areas, our sports fields, our quiet spot. The park may flood, but it will recover. And it won’t take five years to do that.

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