October 15, 2018
Jersey City Officials make deal and allow 84 mature trees to be cut down at Society Hill Walkway
Beware of Jersey City Tree Ordinance Loopholes and Double Talk
After 10 years, 1000+ petition signatures, a written Letter Mandate from past Planning Director Bob Cotter and past DPW / Parks & Forestry Directors Mark Redfield and Rodney Hadley, a Letter of Support from the Jersey City Environmental Commission*, as well as a recent verbal agreement from Director Pat Stamato and Councilwoman Denise Ridley, and even finger wagging from Mayor Fulop citing the new JC Tree Ordinance, a private agreement was apparently made between City Officials and the DPWA (association board for Society Hill & Droyers Pointe) and their contractor Falcon Engineering, to cut down ALL of the 84 mature Shelterbelt of Trees on the public access walkway around Society Hill. (*Letter Links: https://friendsofthewalkway.shutterfly.com/walkwayinformation)
The Shelterbelt of 84 mature London Plane Trees that protected Society Hill properties during Hurricane Sandy, provides estuary wildlife habitat, and provides enormous ecosystem services to Jersey City*, will now be destroyed, under the guise of “needed repairs” to the walkway. All previous assessments, including those by City Officials, certified arborists and non-profit environmental partners, suggested a cost-effective opportunity for root maintenance and simple walkway repairs that would allow for tree growth and avoidance of tripping hazards. (*Tree Map Eco System Services Link: https://www.opentreemap.org/jctrees/map/?z=18/40.70931/-74.10658)
The simpler, less costly, tree-saving approach that was sought by Society Hill and other JC residents was rebuked by the DPWA (Melissa Haley (SH1); Miranda Shirley (SH2); Jenna Campbell (DP)) who refused to meet with residents to review all assessments and distill alternative solutions. The result benefits Falcon Engineering in the form of a high price services contract to unnecessarily remove healthy trees.
City Officials also benefit as they will no longer be held liable for abdicating their responsibilities to intervene and do the required tree and public access walkway maintenance as dictated by the Society Hill Deed (re: ‘common / public space’ - The City has the authority to jump in if maintenance of “common space” aka the Society Hill Walkway, is not attended to by the Development, and thereafter pass along the cost of repairs, maintenance, etc. to the Development. The City refused to abide by the deed commitment and intercede to repair the walkway or maintain the trees). Why did this happen when the City determined that only 15 of the 84 trees needed to be removed?
Why did this become an all or nothing battle, facilitated by the City of Jersey City who decided in favor of destroying all 84 mature trees? Why did City Officials submit to the DPWA and why are Falcon Engineering business interests being prioritized?
The City’s decision process was unfortunately not made transparent to residents. There are however Lessons Learned about 1) PUBLIC ACCESS right of way properties, 2) Non-transparent Residential Development Boards, 3) Civic Participation, 4) JC Trees Ordinance Loophole, and 5) City Officials. These lessons may help others who are dedicated to their communities. Our Lessons Learned can be found on the Friends of the Walkway website at https://friendsofthewalkway.shutterfly.com/ or at the petition site ‘SAVE The 84 Mature Shelterbelt of Trees’ https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/107/811/656/
The Friends of the Walkway would like to thank all the JC residents, and agencies who joined together for environmental advocacy over the last 10 years to keep the Walkway and the Shelterbelt canopy of 84 trees a beautiful and ecologically functioning community asset. Special thanks to the NJ Tree Foundation and Sustainable Jersey City for their assistance and guidance with tree assessments, and help to generate community awareness about the eco system importance of these mature trees (i.e , hurricane wind buffer, storm water management, cooling from shade, and habitat for all the bird life along this Newark Bay estuary).
The Friends stood and "believed in something" and tried to protect against decisions that would sacrifice these beautiful and important Trees, and for 10 years our environmental protection efforts prevailed. "The Friends" will continue with future advocacy and civic participation that supports similar efforts by other organizations in our community – because we still BELIEVE in, and will continue to promote, our environment!
Denise Baily & Vern Carlson
Co-Founders, Friends of the Walkway