— above: N. Ferry St., corner Green St at Lawrence Circle; [L] in Aug. 2007; [R] in April 2008
Assistant City Engineer Peter Knutson listened to my concerns about losing our large street trees and substituting smaller ones of species considered to be appropriate for planting along urban streets, and to my preference for a policy that preserved the big old trees, unless they were dead, dying or dangerous. Peter assured me in an email on March 22 that:
“[Y]ou say that the little trees ruin the historic feel but if you give them 5-10 years they will be mature and give the same feel as the larger trees with minimal burden of damage.
He also said, concerning the notion of tree preservation: “For example, [on] N Ferry Street we removed 6-7 mature trees and installed 23. While those trees may be small now they will grow and provide great shade and the historic feel you are looking for. It will just take time.” Is our City Engineer and his staff correct to say replacement trees can relatively quickly, with a little patience, give us the same “historic feel” as our old-growth street trees? Does this correspond to your streetscape experience and aesthetics, or merely to the standards of civil servants with marching orders from the Mayor’s office?
.. Compare the following collages (click on each for larger versions) ..
NORTH FERRY STREET – the summer before “streetscape improvement”:
NORTH FERRY STREET – April 2016, eight years after “streetscape improvements”:
Note: the only visible large trees, looking south from Lawrence Circle are the ones on the grounds of St. George’s Episcopal Church.
Photos can, of course, be made to lie, but I have attempted to show what N. Ferry Street looks like this week (shots taken April 20 & 22, 2016) from the same perspectives as the 2007 Google Street Views images in the top collage.
You can draw your own conclusions of comparable “historic” feel and other aesthetic standards before and eight years after the 2008 repaving of N. Ferry’s roadway and sidewalks. ReTree Schenectady helped choose the replacement trees, using their customary guidelines for trees that will be along urban streets that have utility wires and small right-of-way areas between curb and sidewalks. My understanding is that those trees are not meant to ever be tall or wide, or to give a significant amount of shade.
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The Western Center for Urban Forest Research and Education got it right in a 1999 report that stated (at 14):
Research on the aesthetic quality of residential streets has shown that street trees are the single strongest positive influence on scenic quality.
For myself, simply from the aesthetic perspective, street tree preservation deserves to take precedence over sidewalk repair concerns and related fiscal restraints. That’s true, even before we consider the wonderful effects of shade on our desire to stroll and shop, and on our air conditioning bills and the battle against harmful sun rays. When the many other benefits of urban trees are also taken into account, the rush to embrace roadside clear-cutting in the name of sidewalk and streetscape improvement is very difficult for this non-engineer to understand.
If you agree, please actively support S.O.S.Trees and its campaign for a street tree preservation policy in Schenectady. Go to our Save Our Schenectady Trees portal page.