Some Bronx Residents Say City Is Shutting Them Out Of Plan For Popular Park

Some residents in the Bronx say the city is shutting them out of a plan that shapes the future of one of the borough's most popular parks. This comes after dozens of health trees were chopped down; CBS2's Lisa Rozner reports.

Video Transcript

- Some residents in the Bronx say that the city is shutting them out of a plan that shapes the future of one of the borough's most popular parks. This comes after dozens of healthy trees were chopped down. CBS 2's Lisa Rozner reports now from Pelham Parkway.

LISA ROZNER: Watching this oak tree go through a slow, forced death was painful for the volunteer group The Friends of Pelham Parkway Park.

JUAN MORALES: A lot of older people, they love to come here.

LISA ROZNER: Last year, the Parks Department removed more than 70 trees like it for the two-mile-plus greenway for a road project.

- My kids like to play. They ride their bikes.

LISA ROZNER: Over the years, we've shown residents spend countless hours cleaning up trash, beautifying the space, and chasing away illegal barbecues, so it's no surprise they wanted a seat at the table in the city's replanting plan.

- What's going to happen to the future generation?

LISA ROZNER: Last February, there was one heated meeting. But the group's founder, Roxane Delgado, says ever since, her repeated requests to meet with the park's forestry team have been ignored.

ROXANNE DELGADO: It hurts me because this community stood up for this parkway. And they fought for this parkway during COVID-19, and they cleaned up, the beautification. Even when they were suffering, they had no income, they had no job, their family members were dying, and they were still here caring for the parkway. And this is how they treat volunteers.

LISA ROZNER: Late last week, the city gave Delgado the final plan, and the first of 300-plus trees are now going into the ground. Delgado says she's upset no native trees will be planted in front of low-income housing when houses across the parkway will see those kinds of trees.

FERNANDO CABRERA: They're going to be smaller trees providing less shade. We need trees, especially in the Bronx when we have such a high asthma rate.

- It doesn't fit in.

LISA ROZNER: We asked the Parks Department how it decided which trees would go where. No one would speak with us on camera, but a spokesperson did email us. A spokesperson shared that locations are based on design and site conditions. A letter to Delgado said Japanese zelkovas are excellent street trees, resistant to drought, high winds, and air pollution, while native elm trees are more susceptible to disease. Two unaffiliated tree experts explain.

FERNANDO CABRERA: Below ground, what is the rooting volume? Do you have enough space for a larger tree, a smaller tree?

- What was native to this part of New York City back in the 1880s or 1850s may not be appropriate for today after all the development.

LISA ROZNER: Some residents feel appropriate or not, they deserve a say. In Pelham Parkway Park, Lisa Rozner, CBS 2 News.

- Now, the Parks Department says it did changed some trees in the plan based on residents' concerns. Councilman Fernando Cabrera says that he's still trying to get a meeting with the parks commissioner.