Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Residents challenge MTA after workers remove trees between railroad tracks and First Street

The Village of Pelham woke up on Saturday to some unexpected news. The trees and shrubs on the embankment between the railroad tracks and First Street next to Highbrook Avenue were gone.

MTA workers removed most of the trees—including two large ones close to the street—and other plants in the area.

“It was a wholesale denuding of anything green and living along the embankment,” said Arthur Scinta, the head of the Pelham Heights Association, in an email to notify Pelham Heights street captains.

Last week, Pelham Town Councilwoman Maura Curtin said she had heard from Andrew Buder, director of government relations for the MTA, that tree branches near the train station would be trimmed as they posed a hazard to the trains. However, this did not happen.

For Pelham residents, the trees helped reduce noise from the trains and acted as a visual barrier, said Curtin.

MTA spokesperson Michael Cortez said Wednesday, “Preventative maintenance and vegetation management are critical to ensure the safe movement of trains, and protection of the public and Metro-North employees. Metro-North’s standard when trimming is to create 15 feet of space both vertically and horizontally from our signal and power feeders, which was followed here.”

To avoid further destruction and to clarify the misunderstanding, Scinta called for anyone in the Pelham Heights Association to join him at 8 a.m. on Sunday to confront the workers about the issue.

Pelham Preservation & Garden Society member Aimee Kaplan helped organize the gathering. She said there was not proper communication, stating she had checked with Village of Pelham Mayor Chance Mullen that it was supposed to be a restrained “haircut” and that Curtin had reiterated that residents wanted conservation.

Approximately 10 citizens showed up at the corner of Monterrey Avenue and First Street for about 40 minutes on Sunday. They informed the supervisor and a manager of the MTA workers of the approach Curtin had discussed with Buder. As a result, the MTA workers did not repeat the previous approach to the trees they trimmed on Sunday, said Curtin.

“It was not so much a noisy protest as an effort to get MTA to abide by their own policies and not being aggressive in removing more than what they had said was planned,” Scinta said.

The MTA staff did not apologize for the clear cutting of vegetation on Saturday. They said they are in the transportation business, not the environmental enhancement business, according to Curtin.

Instead, Curtin was directed to the agency’s “good neighbor” policy. This states that when there is going to be scheduled vegetation management performed, MTA will notify elected officials, neighbors along the right-of-way and community groups in the affected area, usually with an email with the specified time, area and a summary of what work would be done. This has not been put into practice in Pelham in past years.

Need to Work Together

“It’s not for the town (government) to respond or create a strategy,” said Curtin. “It’s an issue that we need to all work together to solve with the MTA and our other partners in government on the village, county and state level.”

Curtin has asked for assistance from Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and state Sen. Nathalia Fernandez as workers are scheduled to return in the next couple of weeks.

Homeowners on First Avenue are organizing to repair the damage the MTA caused. They have started talking with Mullen and plan to improve the area to beyond what it was before without disrupting the MTA corridor, said neighborhood resident Stephan Findikyan.

Mullen did not reply to a request for information sent on Monday.

On Saturday, two trees were cut down to stumps, one of which had the top previously removed, said a source at the railroad who asked to remain anonymous. The MTA provided the community a courtesy and only went to ten feet of space both vertically and horizontally, they said.

“We hope to replant the area to limit the noise, visual and environmental impacts such as erosion,” said Findikyan.


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About the Contributor
Henna Wei, Staff Reporter
Henna Wei is a junior at Pelham Memorial High School. She is a member of the PMHS orchestra, track team, and Science Olympiad team. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, doing puzzles and baking. Ever since elementary school, she has developed a passion for writing short stories and hopes to continue her passion for writing with the Pelham Examiner this year.

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    Matthew GoldbergApr 24, 2024 at 6:59 pm

    I’m glad that the MTA’s deforestation along First Street got folks riled up. However, the stumps shown in those pictures are of trees felled weeks and weeks ago. What took place this past weekend was some pretty much cosmetic branch trimming.
    It’s outrageous that the MTA can do this work without any consultation with the town.