Residents of 56th Place and the Boulevard Gardens co-ops flew into a rage in May after Amtrak cut down over 100 trees on land alongside tracks that run parallel to 56th Place and the nearby Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
They hailed the new trees as a victory against the federally owned railroad, which used stimulus funding for its ill-fated tree take down.
“It was a very tough uphill battle” to have the trees replaced, said Lorie Bacchieri, who lives on 56th Place. “We’re so glad to see it come to fruition.”
In response to public outcry Amtrak initially defended the project, saying it was intended to improve safety by eliminating trees that might fall on the tracks or trip up its signal and switching systems.
But homeowners nearby said it destroyed their scenic view and an important sound barrier that blocked the noise from passing trains. They demanded the ravaged 200-foot section of embankment sloping down from the tracks to their homes be re-landscaped immediately.
After several summer meetings with elected officials, the railroad agreed to plant new trees that would not pose a safety threat. The work was finished before Thanksgiving.
“While I was disappointed that the trees were chopped down in the first place, I am pleased that Amtrak has followed through with its promise to rectify the damages it caused,” said Congressman Joe Crowley.
“Was it a long, drawn out fight?” said Bill McClean, Boulevard Gardens’ board of directors president. “Somewhat, but the results speak for themselves.”
The area where the trees were cut down has been transformed into a landscaped slope where arbor vitae and dogwood trees mix with colorful shrubbery.
Amtrak spokesman Peter Cohen said the railroad would take care of it through next October, before turning the trees and plants over to mother nature. He said Amtrak chose trees “the railroad thought we could live with from a safety point of view.”
“When these trees were chopped down, this community stood up,” said Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. “Amtrak is learning they need to work with the community.”