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Protection of Trees and Wildlife in Riverside Park

This petition had 368 supporters

It has come to our attention that most of the Euonymus bushes surrounding the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Riverside Drive between 88th and 90th St. have been entirely uprooted and destroyed.  The remaining bushes are scheduled for the same fate in short order.

 These bushes are home and shelter to numerous sparrows, catbirds, blue jays, and cardinals; among numerous other forms of wild life including squirrels. Over the recent years many healthy trees around the monument area were also eradicated. The bushes and the trees are not only beautiful, providing homes for animals, shade and oxygen; but they also protect against erosion of the land and keep the soil healthy and strong.  The living bushes and trees that remain in the monument area are integral to the eco-system of the land and must be protected. 

 Also the monument itself is a sacred space of sorts.  Aside from being a landmarked structure it has huge cultural significance in that it is a dedication to the soldiers and sailors of the Civil War that fought against slavery and in support of a more equal and just nation.  Because of the extensive removal of plant life and resulting soil erosion the Soldiers and Sailors Monument itself is being compromised. It is not unlikely that the landscape architects who originally planted the bushes understood the importance of the plants in strengthening the soil, protecting against erosion of the land and preventing the weakening of the foundation of the Monument.

 All of this destructive activity is being done by the Parks Department at the behest of the Riverside Park Conservancy.  Apparently, part of the reason behind the removal of the bushes is a claim that homeless people at times use the bushes as shelter.  Even if this were so, the appropriate activity would be to prune the healthy bushes and create sight lines to the ground, not to destroy them.  A member of our organization called the Conservancy on Feb. 17th, enquiring as to why the latest bunch of bushes were removed (a huge bush row just to the right of the Monument steps at 89th St.) and was told by a staff member at the office that the bushes were cut down in part because they were, “at the end of their life cycle.” This is a false statement. The bushes were thriving, home to dozens of birds, produced berries each fall for at least the past 50 years and, as stated earlier, their removal is accelerating the erosion of the soil around the Monument that supports the foundation.  Part of the mandate of the Riverside Park Conservancy is to, “Maintain the planting in the area surrounding the Monument.”  This recent activity destroys the plantings. The behavior is ecologically unsound, poses a great risk to the monument structure, despoils the park, and is cruel in that it needlessly deprives birds and wildlife of their homes during the winter.

 The activity that is underway is apparently a part of a “master plan” by the fund’s landscape architect Margaret Bracken to eradicate all Euonymus plantings throughout Riverside Park.  It is our opinion that this activity presents a great danger to the health and integrity of Riverside Park and must be stopped immediately.

 This area is also a part of a major flyway for migrating birds such as robins and finches. There are also ducks in the area but only very few these days. When my mother was young (now 78 and grew up on the upper west) the sky used to be black with migrating birds.  The urbanization of the entire east coast has made it difficult for these birds to find food, shelter and places to nest.  There are gulls, cormorants, owls, eagles, hawks, ospreys, grackles, starlings, blackbirds, crows, doves, pigeons and owls that live nearby as well. It is imperative that we encourage greenery and shelter for these birds and other animals. As we all know, climate change is placing a great stress on the land, waters, plants and wildlife. We need to do all we can do support our ecosystems through this difficult time. What we should avoid is the eradication of plants and destruction of habitats.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope you will join in acting to protect Riverside Park.

 Jay Sparrow

President, Riverside Park Protectors

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