GOWANUS — A city-funded construction project to reduce flooding in Gowanus is causing a deluge of anger in the neighborhood, as contractors have chopped down several trees in the past week and plan to cut down more than a dozen more.
A total of 20 trees will have to be felled as part of the city's $52 million high-level storm sewer project, which will one day help lessen the flooding that plagues the area on rainy days and help keep raw sewage from flowing into the Gowanus Canal, officials told DNAinfo New York.
A spokesman with the Department of Design and Construction spokesman said an arborist examined each tree in the project area "to determine its condition and whether it would be affected by the construction project."
"As a result, 10 trees were removed on Carroll between Third and Fourth avenues in order to accommodate equipment needed to complete storm sewer work," said DDC spokesman Ian Michaels.
Michaels did not immediately have further details on how the trees interfered with the equipment. In addition to the 10 trees on Carroll Street, 10 others will be cut down throughout the project area, which spans Carroll to State Street between Third and Fourth avenues, Michaels said.
Carroll Street residents said they watched in dismay this week as their once leafy block was stripped of shade-giving greenery.
"As you know in New York City it's a bit of a sanctuary when you have a tree-lined street that’s kind of quiet,” said block resident Max Tuma of the arboreal assault. "Now it just looks like a barren wasteland. This morning the sun was blasting buildings that used to be in the shade."
Some locals worry that the storm sewers will be so close to the sidewalk that they won't leave room for tree pits, leaving Gowanus streets tree-less forever, but the DDC spokesman said that's not the case.
The city plans to replant all of the lost trees in the spring of 2018, the DDC spokesman said. The entire high-level storm sewer project is slated to be finished in the summer of 2018, the spokesman said.
Residents and workers in Gowanus have endured several years of ripped up sidewalks and streets as a result of the storm sewer project, which required Con Ed, National Grid and Verizon to move underground lines as well.
Two years ago, the north side of Carroll Street between Third Avenue and Nevins Street lost all of its trees for the storm sewers, despite a passionate campaign to save them.
Those trees will also be replanted in 2018, the DDC spokesman said.
That day can't come soon enough for locals.
"I recognize that big infrastructure projects are always about the 'long game' — 10 years from now everyone will be glad for the upgrades to water and sewer — but for those of us living through it, it's no fun," said Sarah Rivkin, an acupuncturist who has worked on the block for nearly seven years.
She added: "This stretch of Carroll Street has always seemed like a little oasis in an otherwise pretty stark area. Not having those trees has changed the quality of the light (obviously) but also the sounds and smells. I'm much more aware of all the truck traffic on Third Avenue, without the screen of the trees."