...at about 11 a.m. she noticed the large white oak that once abutted her property — one of Riverdale’s oldest and mightiest trees — was missing.
A board member of the Riverdale Nature Preservancy committed to maintaining Riverdale’s green spaces, Ms. Morgenthau was shocked at the sight in her backyard.
She wondered if her neighbors ever obtained the necessary permit for removing trees within Riverdale’s Special Natural Area District (SNAD) or “Greenbelt.”
Enforcement in 'Greenbelt' is lax, neighbors charge
After calling 311 to report the felling, Ms. Morgenthau learned her neighbors had not applied for a permit. Nonetheless, as it turns out, it may not have made much of a difference. The Department of City Planning, sources say, does little to enforce the regulations meant to protect Riverdale’s unusual “green” features, often not double-checking arborists’ requests to cut down trees.
In response to Ms. Morgenthau’s complaint, authorities dispatched a city inspector who issued a stop-work order, but the deed had already been done.
“People made a big brouhaha about all these regulations, but they really have no weight,” Ms. Morgenthau explained. More importantly, she expressed distress that she was put in the uncomfortable position of acting as the “neighborhood police.” “I don’t want to keep going around being the police,” she said. “We have agencies that could police this. It shouldn’t come down to neighbors watching over neighbors.”
The Special Natural Area District was established in 1975 to protect Riverdale’s high concentration of trees and its other unique natural features, such as glacial rock outcroppings. Removal of such features requires City Planning’s approval, which usually takes no more than two weeks. However, the regulations stipulate that trees that are dead or dangerous may be removed without City Planning review if certified arborists document their case, which Bartlett personnel insisted they did.