From the Times Ledger:
The trees had been taken down by the state Department of Transportation, which started construction on a large section of the Grand Central Parkway near the airport this spring, said Adam Levine, spokesman for the DOT.
He said right now the on-ramp and off-ramp from the parkway to the airport are both underneath the 94th Street bridge. The department is working to move the on-ramp further east down the parkway near 97th or 99th Street to alleviate the traffic on the ramps, a project expected to cost about $65 million.
“There’s a lot of traffic backups and a lot of accidents in the area,” Levine said.
As part of the construction, Levine said 550 trees in the area will be taken down.
This has angered some residents in the area. Smith-Jackson, founder of the Ditmars Boulevard Homeowners Alliance, said losing the trees has been a hardship to the community. The trees acted as a buffer. They separated residents’ backyards from the parkway and mitigated the emissions from the parkway and airport.
“Nobody can open the windows now,” she said.
Smith-Jackson also said the trees were taken down without warning. The DOT never informed the residents the project was starting.
Levine said the department has been apologetic for not doing so.
“This is really not the way we like to introduce ourselves to the community,” he said.
After construction started, Community Board 3 set up a meeting between residents and DOT. Smith-Jackson said that at the meeting homeowners said they wanted the department to stop cutting down the trees and also did not want the DOT to build a noise wall in the back of their properties.
“They removed mature trees,” Smith-Jackson said. “They removed 100-year-old trees. … They cannot replace that.”
Levine said the noise wall was approved 23-6 in a department-run poll of residences identified as being potentially affected by the project. This poll was done in late 2007 in the design process of the project.