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New York City chain saws down 1,000 trees to raise park 8-10 feet to address panic over 3mm sea level rise – Protesters ‘watched in horror’


In N.Y., battling climate change means killing 1,000 trees

NEW YORK — After years of planning by city officials, New Yorkers got a close-up glimpse of the trade-offs inherent in the fight against climate change when crews this month began cutting down the first of a thousand trees targeted for removal in John V. Lindsay East River Park.

Since the chain saws arrived two weeks ago, workers have moved quickly to get rid of more than 70 species of mature trees at the popular 46-acre park on the Lower East Side, including 419 oaks, 284 London planes, 89 honeylocusts and 81 cherry trees — along with eventually demolishing a running track, ballfields, lawns, picnic areas, an amphitheater and a composting center.

“What’s the point of paying a parks department that cuts down trees?” asked Karen Kapnick, one of a small group of protesters who watched in horror, peeking through a chain link fence next to Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive as workers denuded the first dozen trees. “I’m just here because I care about the trees and the environment.”

City officials say the tree removal is just a necessary first step to creating a bigger and better park. More importantly, they say, the remade East River Park will be better able to withstand storm surge even as the waters surrounding lower Manhattan rise in the coming years. Once all the work is finished — projected in about five years — the new park will be raised 8 to 10 feet higher, with new recreational facilities and 1,800 replacement trees representing more than 50 species more suited to survive occasional saltwater floods.

The park overhaul, spurred by the destruction of Superstorm Sandy in lower Manhattan nearly a decade ago, is all part of a $1.45 billion flood protection project that backers say befits the nation’s largest city, a massive project that will include the construction of a 2.4-mile system of walls and gates along the East River.

“We’re the parks department, so we obviously are very fond of trees and plants,” said Sarah Neilson, chief of policy and long-range planning for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. “We also recognize that after Sandy we had to take out 250 trees that died just from that one intense saltwater inundation. They’re not species that were designed for a coastal environment.”