To the Editor: Sidewalks? or Trees?

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tree-tower

It is fortunate that the Larchmont sidewalk project has ground to a halt.  Maybe now the public can weigh in and the project can be looked at with some sanity.

Larchmont, which prides itself as having been named a “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation for more than 30 years, and which even flies a Tree City flag, has totally blown it by taking down stately 50 plus year old trees.

Mayor Anne McAndrews is quoted in the Journal News as saying that removing the trees was necessary to put in the new sidewalks because ‘It’s hard to build sidewalks around these trees…I understand that it’s a shock to see the place after these trees have come down and before new ones have been planted. But it’s going to look beautiful in the end.’  As government quotes go, that is right up there with the famous one from the Vietnam War, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”  Even if the trees are replaced, it will be with skinny saplings and we will not have large spreading trees like the ones which are being cut down until our children are long grown.

If it is hard to build sidewalks around the trees, so what?  As Phyllis McGinley wrote in her famous 1951 paean to Larchmont  “I Know A Village”,

The streets are named from trees. They edge
Past random houses, safely fenced
With paling or with privet hedge
That bicycles can lean against.

And when the roots of maples heave
The solid pavements up that bound them.
Strollers on sidewalks give them leave
To thrust and pick a way around them.

Part of the beauty and charm of Larchmont is that the trees come first, and in exchange for the beauty and joy they bring, we build around them.  Tree roots in the sidewalk are not an impediment, but are instead, as Joyce Kilmer, another Larchmont poet so wonderfully sung in his 1914 poem “Trees”,

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
I am sure that Larchmont’s residents, merchants, and visitors would much rather see stately trees growing into the ground’s “sweet flowing breast” than sterile urban sidewalks.  As Kilmer wrote, “only God can make a tree.”  Let’s not destroy His work because of some inconvenience.

Robert S. Herbst
Larchmont

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6 thoughts on “To the Editor: Sidewalks? or Trees?

  1. Right, but how many years will it take for those trees to grow to the size of the trees that were just chopped down? And when on earth are those trees even going to be planted??? Right now we just get to look at seven to ten foot tall stumps.

  2. Good heavens! Of course the Village is not cutting down its stately trees to put in sidewalks. It is replacing sick, decrepit trees whose roots have uplifted our sidewalks with carefully selected species, among them elms, honeylocusts, hedgemaples and others in order to enhance a suburban business street. Special soils will be used so that the roots go down instead of out in search of moisture. The new trees will be at least 3 to 3 1/2 inches caliper and 7 to 10 feet tall when planted. Over 40 trees will be untouched and the 29, designated by our landscape architect and arborists to be unheathy, will be replaced by 35.

    I have described the project in detail in a letter to the community on the village website. http://www.villageoflarchmont.org

    The planting plan is a large file and we are trying to have it posted on the website. We hope to display a paper copy in the Palmer area in the near future.

    Larchmont was named for a tree. We started the project to enhance the look of the Palmer business district, not destroy it, but construction takes time and effort. I promise that you will be pleased with the result.

    Anne McAndrews
    Mayor, Village of Larchmont, NY

  3. I saw the document that was distributed to the Palmer Ave businesses prior to the start of the project, and it says nothing about chopping down the trees, just says they were going to be pruned! So when did that change and why was there no public input allowed before such a drastic move? There seems ample room along the sidewalk to have expanded it and left the trees where they were.

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