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New York City Cut Down 200 Healthy Trees Reportedly for Luxury Housing

One famed activist said the project "bears all the hallmarks of a crime."

Over the last month, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has cut down more than 200 healthy, living hardwood trees to allegedly make way for a controversial luxury development plan, the New York Post reports.

The plan to build market-rate apartments and retail alongside New York City public housing called the Baruch Houses has received pushback since it came to light in 2013. In February of that year, the New York Daily News obtained internal documents that indicated that the NYCHA was seeking 175,000 square feet of new luxury housing near the public housing development.

At a 2013 community board meeting, Aixa Torres, president of public housing development Smith Houses, called the move "a travesty." "When no one wanted to live here, we stayed," she said. "If you want a war, you got a war."

And the community has delivered. Since the work of ripping up the ancient hardwood trees actually began in March 2019, there has been further outrage from both locals and environmental activists. According to the New York Post, one longtime resident of the area was so upset that he ripped off the yellow tape that workers had tied to the trees that were about to be torn down.

On Twitter, environmental activist groups have called out Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced New York City's Green New Deal on Monday while trees were being destroyed mere miles away.

"I hope organizations fighting for climate change see through the mayor's lies," Twitter user @msbritt_305 wrote. "Days after he announce his Green New Deal, he killed 100 trees at Baruch Houses."

Some have pointed out that tearing the trees down wasn't the only option. There are companies, like Environmental Design, that specialize in transplanting massive trees. "We have transplanted numerous giant trees well in excess of 1 million pounds, including the world's largest tree ever relocated," their website reads.

Even workers who were tasked with tearing down the trees are displeased about the project. "It's a terrible thing to kill healthy, living trees," one anonymous worker told the New York Post. "I asked a NYCHA official why this was happening, and no reason was given."

Michael Gardinia, a spokesperson for the NYCHA, told Best Life that the decision was part of their "$200 million investment for recovery and resilience work," in connection with Hurricane Sandy, which caused serious damage to New York City in 2012. He said the trees had to be removed in order to facilitate flood-proofing for existing buildings in the area, and to update their heat and hot water systems. Gardinia added that "once all Sandy-related work is complete, NYCHA will be planting trees at the development."

When contacted about the situation, Richard Powers, an American novelist who just won the Pulitzer Prize for The Overstory, which explores deforestation, issued the following statement to Best Life:

"A beautiful, flourishing, full-grown hardwood shade tree adds untold wealth to a city street. To kill one is a grave thing. To kill two hundred of them, rapidly and unilaterally, without public consent or adequate consultation, for a flimsy reason, bears all the hallmarks of a crime."

And for more on how you can help the environment, check out these 30 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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