PRESS CONFERENCE ON PROPOSED TREE REMOVAL IN IDLEWILD PARK PRESERVE

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On Friday, April 26th, the Eastern Queens Alliance held a press at the Idlewild Cricket Field at 223rd Street & 149th Avenue in Springfield Gardens, N. to let the community’s voice be heard about the removal of hundreds of full-grown trees in Idlewild Park Preserve. Specifically, PANYNJ has been negotiating with the NYCDPR to the remove 722 trees from the wetlands area.  Half of the trees they claim are current hazards to aviation. But one has to question: Why now? 

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 The Eastern Queens Alliance believes that the removal of the trees is more likely tied to PANYNJ’s proposed extension of JFK runway 4L/22R. The runway extension has not yet been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); but if it is approved, the runway 4L/22R will extend 728 feet closer to the community and lower aircraft by 100+ feet over nearby homes. At that point, even more trees will be cleared away from the wetlands area, rendering the park useless.   

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We need our wetlands!  The wetlands in Idlewild Park provide critical flood protection by serving as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface-water, rain, snowmelt groundwater and floodwaters.  The trees, root mats and other wetland vegetation slow the speed of floodwaters and reduce erosion. In fact, the destruction of wetlands over the years has probably contributed significantly to the debilitating flooding experienced in low-lying communities in the Springfield Gardens and Rosedale areas.

In addition to the ecological importance of the wetlands, they serve as an educational and recreational resource for our community.  Over the years, the EQA and the community have planted trees, shrubs and wetland plants.  We have built trails and taken children on field trips through EQA-sponsored hands-on environmental science education programs. And the wetlands will serve as a critical focal point and learning “laboratory” for the Idelwild Park Preserve Environmental Learning Center which Borough President Helen Marshall has made possible through the allocation of $5million in the 2009 budget. 

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We cannot sit by now and allow external agencies to impose their narrow self-interests on the health, safety and quality of life of our community.  This is the community where our children play and go to school.  We have worked hard to obtain and maintain our homes; and for many of us, they represent our most valuable investments.  We have a vested interest in maintaining this community, and we have a right to do so.