Amtrak under fire for removing trees in Woodside

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley and City Councilman Peter Vallone survey the area adjacent to the Amtrak train tracks near Boulevard Gardens, where multiple trees were removed. Photo by Rebecca Henely.
By Rebecca Henely

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) visited Boulevard Gardens in Woodside Friday to see firsthand the results of a massive takedown of trees along the nearby Amtrak line that began in May.

“There was little to no regard for the surrounding community,” Crowley said of the trees’ removal.

The removal, a small part of an extensive tree-cutting done from Boston to Washington, D.C., which Amtrak said it carried out to prevent branches from falling on the tracks, has been opposed by residents of Boulevard Gardens and City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), who say now that the trees are gone the noise from the trains has become disruptive and the aesthetics of the community have been wrecked.

“It looks like the mines,” said resident Eric Camargo, 64, of the area along 57th Street from 30th to 31st avenues.

Crowley emphasized that the safety elements of the project were important, but said the project was done recklessly.

“They didn’t communicate with our office and that’s unacceptable,” Crowley said.

Resident Lorie Bacchieri, 54, said she thought more trees were taken down than needed.

“We understand along the tracks, but the tracks are up there,” she said, referring to the fact that many trees down below the top of the hill where the track runs had been removed. “They’re not going to fall up along the tracks.”

Jimmy Lanza, 64, an area resident and a former president of the board of directors at Boulevard Gardens, took Crowley, Vallone and other residents on a tour of the area, pointing out the tree removal along 57th Street, near 56th Place and 28th Avenue, and at the fenced area along the Amtrak bridge over 51st Street.

Crowley said the office is working to keep Amtrak, which has hired an arborist and plans to replant some trees and put up a new fence, focused on this issue. A meeting between the residents and Amtrak is planned, although no date has been set yet.

“We’re going to continue to stay on top of this situation,” Crowley said.

Bacchieri praised Crowley and Vallone for visiting the site.

“[They’re] actually seeing what we’re living with and what we’re contending with,” she said.

Camargo said he’s looking forward to when new trees will be planted.

“We need the green,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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