By Rebecca Henely
Residents who live around Boulevard Gardens in Woodside and elected officials Tuesday celebrated Amtrak’s replanting trees to replace the ones it took down along train lines in the area in early May.
“I have to salute Amtrak for working with our office and working with the community,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights).
Residents had protested the sudden tearing down of 100 mature trees along the tracks near 56th Place and 57th Street, which they said had been done without any advance word from Amtrak. The clearing had been done as part of a multi-state, $30 million initiative to cut down trees along Amtrak’s right-of-way from Boston to Washington, D.C.
Peter Cohen, senior officer for Amtrak government affairs, said clearing had been done to prevent branches from falling onto the tracks, causing delays and imperiling safety.
“It was cantankerous in the beginning,” Jimmy Lanza, 64, former board president of Boulevard Gardens, said of the early discussions.
After talks between the residents, Amtrak, Crowley, City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) and state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), the company agreed to replant trees and shrubbery as well as repair or replace the fencing along the tracks. The railroad also promised to check up on the trees through October 2011 to make sure they are watered, replant any trees that die and inform the community in the future of any similar initiatives.
“In our own small way, we’re trying to put a little bit of wood back in Woodside,” Cohen said.
Vallone said he was proud of the community for standing up to Amtrak and dealing with the problem in a civil manner.
“They had every right to be angry, to yell and scream, but they got through that really quickly,” Vallone said.
Resident Lorie Bacchieri, 54, thanked Amtrak and the community.
“It was a very tough, uphill battle, as many of you know, and we’re glad to see it come to fruition,” she said.
Lanza also thanked members of the press for bringing attention to this issue.
Crowley said while the new trees cannot yet replace the mature trees that were removed, it was a step in the right direction as was the repair of the fence and the rails.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was,” Crowley said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.