UPPER EAST SIDE — The city is planning to rip out several 30-year-old trees next to an athletic field ahead of construction work for the controversial East 91st Street marine transfer station, despite pledging last week to explore alternative plans, advocates said.
Representatives from the Asphalt Green athletic complex received an email Tuesday from the Department of Sanitation announcing the agency would begin removing pear trees Wednesday. They are located along the edge of a planned ramp to the trash facility bordering the complex's athletic fields.
“We felt totally blindsided when they said, ‘We’re taking down the trees in 24 hours,’” said Carol Tweedy, Asphalt Green's executive director. “It’s a poke in the eye.”
Tweedy said the Sanitation Department agreed to reschedule the tree removal to Friday in order to give Asphalt Green more time to prepare for the work. Removal of the trees, which are clustered along fencing on the north side of the athletic field, would also force the complex to close down the field during the work.
Tweedy wasn't sure how many trees would be uprooted in total.
Just last week, in a meeting between community stakeholders and Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, the department agreed to commission a study to look at alternate locations for the ramp.
“At the moment, we have agreed with the city that they will do a comprehensive study on moving the ramp,” Tweedy said. “Our question is, if you might not use that ramp, why do you need to start cutting down the trees?”
A Department of Sanitation spokeswoman said Wednesday that engineers are looking at possibly relocating the ramp, but deferred to the city's Department of Design and Construction regarding the planned tree removal. The DDC did not immediately return a request for comment.
Under the current plan, trucks will enter and exit the waste transfer facility from York Avenue on a ramp that separates Asphalt Green’s athletic fields from its playground area.
The tree removal would mark one of the first major salvos in the ongoing fight over the much-maligned marine transfer station, which became a flashpoint during the primary elections after former Mayor Michael Bloomberg pressed forward with the project.
Opponents unsuccessfully sued to stop it on multiple occasions.
Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the area surrounding Asphalt Green, denounced the plan to continue with demolition related to the project.
“The 91st St. Marine Transfer Station is being placed in between an Olympic training ground serving 30,000 children from all five boroughs and a housing development with 1,173 units, and within feet of six schools, 22,056 residents and 6,755 residents of color,” Kallos said in a statement.
“I have been proud to join Mayor de Blasio in reversing many of the worst policies of the Bloomberg administration and hope to continue this pattern by joining together to stop the 91st St. Marine Transfer Station now.”