Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Upcoming Events of Note

Announcements from email by Paul Feiner:

The Town of Greenburgh has completed the first draft of our Tree Technical manual. The Dept of Community Development and Conservation would appreciate it if comments would be submitted by January 11, 2010. To review the manual, please go to:

http://www.greenburghny.com/FCpdf/Tree%20Tech%20Manual%2012-10-09.pdf




SENATOR COUSINS TO CONDUCT SITE INSPECTION OF CON ED TREE CUTTING ON SATURDAY, JANUARY 9TH AT 2 PM.

Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins and I will join other Town Board members on a site inspection of areas impacted by the recent Con Ed tree clearings. A short meeting will be held at Greenburgh Town Hall at 2 PM followed by the site inspection. Greenburgh Town Hall is located at 177 Hillside Ave.

If your property was impacted by the tree clearing that took place recently and you’d like the Senator to consider stopping by – please advise. Con Ed claims that the tree clearing took place near the transmission power lines to prevent outages. Some neighbors object: they believe Con Ed cut trees that were not close enough to the transmission lines to cause disruptions.

- Paul Feiner

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unchopping a Tree by Maya Lin

The Haunting, Beautiful "Unchopping a Tree" Video You Must See - The latest work from Maya Lin is a green call to action.

World renown American artist and architect Maya Lin -- designer of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington -- is in Copenhagen today with the What is Missing? campaign. As part of this memorial she has unveiled a stunning multimedia piece called Unchopping A Tree.

The slow-burning, reflective piece features ethereal music by Brian Eno. "If deforestation were happening in your city, how quickly would you work to stop it?" the video asks, pointing out that 90 acres of rainforest are destroyed every minute. Deforestation threatens half of the world's species, and is responsible for 20% of global warming emissions.

We can reduce emissions and protect species. "Together we can save two birds with one tree," the piece argues.

Lin debuted the work at the Support REDD+ Gala, which supports the UN program that aims to give developing nations financial incentive to keep their forests standing. Under the What is Missing Foundation?, Maya will be awarding six grants to organizations and projects, including the Carbon Fund and Bonobo Conservation Initiative, that show that REDD+ can be and is successful.

Lin is no stranger to environmental work. She recently completed a restorative "wave field" at New York's Storm King Art Center. This year she completed "Silver River," her first work of art in Las Vegas, an 84-foot cast of the Colorado River made entirely of reclaimed silver. With the sculpture, Lin wanted to make a statement about water conservation in parched Nevada.

Posted from The Daily Green.

More Analysis of Con Ed's ROW Rights and Responsibilities

From a May 17, 2007 email by Mike Sigal to Paul Feiner:

Subject: MUNICIPALITY'S RIGHT TO REGULATE CON ED TREE CUTTING/TOPPING

This email is being sent on behalf of Dan Rosenblum and myself. We are both members of the Greenburgh Conservation Advisory Council. I am a retired business lawyer, and Dan is a Senior Attorney of the Pace Law School Energy Project and also a former Commissioner of the Illinois Commerce Commission.

As far as we can tell, a utility in NYS does not have the right to override local municipal law with respect to tree cutting on private rights of way on which "distribution" electric lines are situated. Whether a utility in NYS is exempt from municipal regulation with respect to tree cutting on public rights of way on which "distribution" electric lines are situated would depend on the terms of the right of way and/or franchise agreement granted by the municipality.

We base these conclusions on: (i) Article 2 of the Transportation Corporation Law (Gas and Electric Corporations), (ii) provisions of the NY Public Service Law, and (iii) the Public Service Commission June 20, 2005 Order in Case 04-E-0822 (Enhanced Transmission Right-of-Way Management Practices By Electric Utilities).

I have also had informal discussions, via phone and email, with Richard Berkley, counsel to Assemblyman Brodsky, who at the request of Town Councilman Steve Bass has been very helpful in providing background on the legal framework. Dan Rosenblum has had separate informal discussions with a PSC lawyer. The conclusions herein, while informed by those communications, are ours alone.

A. A few background facts, as we understand them to generally be: "Transmission" electric lines move electric energy between points of supply and points at which it is transformed for delivery to consumers. "Distribution" electric lines deliver electric energy from substations to consumers. Transmission lines and subtransmission lines are high voltage, with voltages up from 69 kilovolts. Distribution lines are lower voltage, with voltages around 34 kilovolts.

B. Article 2 of the Transportation Corporations Law, in Section 11(3), provides that

"electric corporation . . . shall have power to . . . supply electricity for heat or power in cities, towns and villages within this state; . . . to lay, erect and construct suitable wires or other conductors, with the necessary poles, pipes or other fixtures in, on and under the streets, avenues, public parks and places in such cities, towns or villages, with the consent of the municipal authorities thereof, and in such manner and under such reasonable regulations, as they may prescribe . . . ." (emphasis added).


C. The Public Service Law also is relevant to activities of utilities in the State.

Section 130 of the PSL provides that "notwithstanding any other provision of law, no . . . municipality. . . may require any approval, consent, permit, certificate or other condition for the construction or operation of a major facility." Section 120 defines "major utility transmission facility" as (i) an electric transmission line of 125 KV or more extending one mile or more or (ii) an electric transmission line of 100-125 KV extending ten miles or more.

Thus, the PSL specifically preempts local municipal regulation with respect to transmission lines, but does not specifically preempt local municipal regulation with respect to distribution lines. An inference under rules of statutory construction would be that, by specifically preempting local municipal regulation with respect to major facilities, the PSL is not preempting local municipal regulation with respect to distribution lines. If the PSL automatically preempted all local municipal regulation with respect to all electric lines, Section 130 (preempting only with respect to major facility transmission lines) would be superfluous.

D. The Public Service Commission administers the PSL. In 2005, the PSC issued a major order relating to effective right-of-way management in order to assure reliability of electric power delivery: June 20, 2005 Order (Enhanced Transmission Right-of-Way Management Practices By Electric Utilities). This Order relates only to "bulk and other critical transmission facilities" and to "non-critical" transmission facilities as prescribed by the PSC. (P. 30) The PSC determined that "69 kV appears to be a reasonable voltage threshold" for coverage of the Order. (P. 17) The Order thus does not cover lower voltage distribution facilities.

Also, it is worth noting that, even with respect to the major facilities transmission lines covered by the Order, the utilities "must continue to evolve and develop effective danger tree programs that incorporate the appropriate balance between attempting to attain zero tree-caused outages and the corresponding cost, public acceptance and environmental impact of these programs." (P. 13)

E. Rights of way on which distribution lines are situated are either from a public owner or private owner of the underlying property.

ROWs and/or franchise agreements granted by a municipality may, or may not, have granted the grantee utility an exemption from municipal regulation. Each relevant ROW/franchise agreement relating to municipal property would have to be reviewed.

ROWs granted by a private property owner could not legally grant to the grantee utility an exemption from municipal regulation. A private property owner is subject to municipal regulation, and a private property owner when he/she grants a ROW to an utility could not have granted an exemption from municipal law to the grantee utility.




Considering the above law and facts, in order to protect the residents of the Town, both in Villages and Unincorporated Greenburgh, we would suggest that the Town take the position that Con Ed is NOT exempt from local municipal regulation with respect to tree cutting on private and public rights of way on which distribution lines are situated. If Con Ed has a legal basis for a different position, Con Ed should demonstrate in writing to all relevant Town and Village authorities.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Legal Analysis of Con Ed Distribution Line Clearing Rights and Regulations

This pdf document was prepared last month by Irvington resident Pat Gilmartin as an informal legal brief to the Village of Irvington and it has just been provided to me for use in upcoming GEF working group discussions covering Distribution Line ROW management.

This provides pertinent analysis in conjunction with the review of Greenburgh's town code Section 260A on Utility ROW rights and responsibilities, demonstrating a strong basis for assuming the viability of creating a model regulation for adoption by local and regional municipalities.

It also provides a basis for the notion of a protected tree (of historical, specimen or aesthetic value) as well as tree protection zones (similar to that of view sheds) such as the row of Sycamores on the west side of S. Broadway along the Columbia Nevis frontage. Such "overlay protection zone" concepts are currently part of the draft revision to Irvington's Tree Protection Ordinance. In combination with this Section 202 Tree Protection Code update, a list of proposed protection zones is being compiled. If you are a village resident and have specific suggestions for protection zones or specific trees to be protected, please forward your ideas to trees@irvingtonny.gov. Proposed protection zones may be located on village property, village easements, school district properties or private property.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Con Ed Needs More Money From You

Con Ed is in the process of renewing its electric customer rate with NYS PSC. The docket is located at:

http://documents.dps.state.ny.us/public/MatterManagement/CaseMaster.aspx?MatterCaseNo=09-E-0428

As shown, the application is for a sizeable increase. The top document (i.e., most recent of Dec 1st, #84) on this page provides notice of public hearings on this rate application, and includes a public hearing in Greenburgh on January 11th.

--

The PSC is holding the hearings. A PSC (actually NYS Dep't. of Pub. Service) administrative law judge will preside to receive input on the rate increase proposal.

The document that is the basis for the proposed rate increase does not appear to have any direct reference to allocating funds for vegetation management. However, such fund allocation must occur, so commenting to PSC on the amount of funds & resources that Con Edison expends on vegetation management is appropriate. And, if the rate increase proposal is silent on this point, perhaps it needs to be added and made explicit.

This could go both ways, as a large fund allocation might imply cutting more trees. On the other hand, an adequate allocation should be made such that the utility does not perform a one-time cutting that is supposed to "last" 20 years.

Thanks to Chris Crane, Counsel, Committee on Environment & Energy, Westchester County Board of Legislators for this "heads up" alert to the upcoming rate hearings.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Suggestions for "Next Steps"

On Dec 5, 2009, at 10:26 AM, Paul Feiner wrote:

I am wondering if the community would be interested in meeting in the near future (if holiday schedules make December inconvenient we can meet in January). We should come up with one or two manageable initiatives that we can lobby the PSC to mandate.

We can meet at Greenburgh Town Hall. Among suggestions:

1) Require notification to local governments re: extent of tree cutting before tree cutting takes place…

2) Require Con Ed (other other utility companies that clear cut trees) to replant replacements. (we just received trees from Con Ed which we planted on Sprain Road yesterday---not enough, but better than nothing. These trees were given to us to compensate the community for some of the trees cut 3 years ago). The PSC should come up with a formula for replacements.

3) Requirement of some noise abatement if trees acted as a noise barrier between residential neighborhoods and busy parkways/highways.

4) Requirement that Con Ed submit proof that trees being cut can impact wires before trees are cut.

These are just a few ideas. My suggestion: We meet during the week of January 11th. I’m available on that Monday or Tuesday evening. Any thoughts?

PAUL FEINER
Greenburgh Town Supervisor



To which I have just replied:

I know that GNC (Greenville Nature Center) is establishing a working group to focus on several elements related to the Con Ed and PSC question. This forum would be open to others outside of the Town and villages, including anywhere in the county or in nearby counties such as Rockland.

Some of the initial goals discussed would be to generate the following:

  • PSC Petition -> review / appeal 2005 Transmission Line Guidelines. Require a science-based determination of guidelines.

  • Resolution for municipal-level adoption -> calling for state investigation of PSC SEQR process, Con Ed implementation, etc.

  • Sample Tree Code Module -> control over ROW activities by Con Ed or other utilities (based upon Greenburgh 260A.)

These are in some ways broader and in some ways more specific than your suggestions, but do not in any way exclude yours, rather build from them as a base. For example, the timely notification requirement is very important. Honest, timely disclosure to both municipal and private stakeholders. Allowing for on-site review of actual in-field decision criteria relating to clearance guidelines. Clear marking of affected trees as to prune vs. removal.

But, to my mind, the core issue is the legality of the original SEQR process itself that PSC & Con Ed have used to give a carte blanche to their actions.

Requiring replacements for removed trees is good. Full public and scientific review of any such guidelines would be necessary - and would require a case-by-case review and approval for relandscaping. Tree valuation must be based upon age, location, species, health (condition) and more. The entire ecosystem collapses when clear cutting such as what has occurred along the transmission lines is undertaken. Simply replanting a few young trees does not resolve these impacts ranging from stormwater issues to noise and privacy issues to habitat losses.

Not to mention property value impacts. What sort of restitution should be required to be given to affected property owners?

The notion that a single blanket SEQR could or should encompass all transmission line clearings across the state (over 190,000 acres affected) is a central fallacy. This must be stopped! SEQRs for each unique line segment should be the requirement. And full public review. At this point, the lack of environmental stewardship demonstrated by Con Ed should trump any issue of inconvenience or delay in process.

Item #3 - Street noise abatement - is a delicate area. If, in the act of fixing noise issues the solution is to erect barrier walls - then you will have just implemented a potentially egregious ecological error - blocking (or isolating) migratory routes, hunting areas and habit for animals, amphibians and so forth. This in itself could cause as much long term damage as simply removal of trees.

Item #4 is very important - the site surveys of tree impacts and resulting clearance needs must be justified. In distribution line clearing, this concurrence can fall with the municipality and the private home owner locally. But for transmission line ROW, who exactly is the oversight party that should review such analysis? What sort of monitoring or inspection process exists by which to hold Con Ed (or the other state transmission utilities) to any such enhanced requirements?

There is obviously much more here to discuss, but I think we should be in good shape by early January to have an agreed list of goals / action items - for a larger meeting. I will ask Anne Jaffe to be sure that you are kept in the loop with GNC related activities, as well.

One item I thought I should mention is that GNC is considering a second Tree Roundtable for January. The subject of this roundtable would be management of street trees - especially in terms of dealing with the distribution line clearing cycles.

Local residents and municipalities need to understand what actions are available to them by which the impact of the 3 year Con Ed cycle can be mitigated:

-> Street Tree Survey - mapping type, age, health of street trees, planting zones, wire impact areas, etc.
-> Street Tree Replanting ("right tree in the right place") and yearly maintenance pruning plans.
-> Education of private home owners about planting near wire zones and proper pruning maintenance.

regards,

-mg-

Upcoming Con Ed Pruning - Set Up Action Plan Now!



Larchmont, Harrison, Ossining, White Plains, Pleasantville, Greenburgh and Yonkers

If your town or village is on this list, please have you municipal officials set up an action plan now before Con Ed pruning trucks are idling at your gates. If you want advice about what steps to take, what guidelines to set into place, please consider these action points based upon our experiences in Irvington:
  • Meet with senior Con Ed management to let them know you mean business.
  • Hold a high visibility public rally in support of tree conservation and minimal pruning. Get local media involved from the onset.
  • Get to know your crew supervisor for Asplundh and project supervisor for Con Ed. Ensure the Con Ed supervisor is an experienced, certified arborist.
  • Trust but verify – meet, review & monitor every step of the way, every tree (public or private)!
  • Have a qualified Consulting Arborist on contract and "on-call" for the duration of the project cycle. Have arborist meet and review pruning expectations with Con Ed and contractor on each new street segment.
  • Highlight areas of historic or specimen quality trees for special handling. Meet & review - walk the line - ahead of time, but especially on the day of actual pruning. Insist upon supervision oversight by a senior Con Ed arborist that you are comfortable with.
  • Agree upon and publicly post the complaint resolution process. (Complaints should go to a specific project email address and to local officials such as DPW for tracking & forwarding "up the chain", and not to the generic 1-800-ConEd number.)
  • Have a Contact Escalation list (including Con Ed senior management) and a defined emergency “stop work” process to allow time-out for on-site consultations.
  • Keep the public informed (email, web, cable, clerk's office, police department) as to the daily work schedule, their rights as property owners, escalation contacts to use, etc.
  • Ensure that Con Ed and Aspludth are giving sufficient pre-notification to homeowners for all private tree pruning. There should be at least 24 hours and a contact number to set up a consultation with the Con Ed Notification Forester for the project.
  • Document your assets: take photos before and after pruning. Also try to get a written description from Notification Forester of what tree pruning you have agreed to.
  • Set up volunteer monitoring of line clearing operations. Establish neighborhood watches block by block. Observers should report any unusual, unwanted, un-agreed, or excessive pruning immediately!
  • Report any rude language or behavior by pruning crews. Sure, dealing with public is difficult, especially when it comes to emotional issues such as trees. But the crews must remain civil and professional at all times.
Longer Term Efforts:
  • Start a program of municipal street tree maintenance (eg: annual pruning, tree replacement with appropriate tree species, GPS-based street tree survey.)
  • Plan a public “Re-Leaf” Project to re-plant areas where street trees have been removed.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Trees Fall Prey - Hudson Independent December 2009



Read the article by Barrett Seaman on the front page of the Hudson Independent December 2009 issue. The article concludes with the following advanced warning for other municipalities in our region:

"All these issues will doubtless rise anew in other towns and villages throughout the county as the Asplundh crews move on to Larchmont, Harrison, Ossining, White Plains, Pleasantville, Greenburgh and Yonkers."

Along with this article, the paper carried this editorial:

Massacre of Trees by Con Ed Must Be Stopped
NOVEMBER 29 2009

Fighting City Hall has traditionally been viewed as a losing battle. So, too, has been duking it out with such established entities as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Cablevision and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Also in that category is Con Edison, which has a monopoly to deliver power in the region and seems able to raise rates at the blink of a light switch. The utility apparently also believes it has the green light to dismember healthy, vibrant trees whenever it pleases. In early November, Con Edison’s contractors ran roughshod through Irvington, carving up beautiful, two-century-old trees like helpless turkeys at a Thanksgiving meal. It was so nerve-racking that in a noble effort to minimize the damage, residents in the village held a vigil to watch over Con Edison’s hired guns. But this is nothing new for Con Edison. Many other communities have had similar nightmarish experiences, with most complaints falling on deaf ears, just as limbs have been falling from helpless trees along Con Edison’s damaging path.

Con Edison has argued the work is necessary to remove potentially dangerous branches and tree limbs from power lines. In many instances that is the case, and Con Ed has made some concessions, but there is an unmistakable logic that the utility has abused its authority and demonstrated a lack of understanding and compassion to the importance of trees to the overall character of municipalities in the rivertowns and elsewhere.

Something has to be done to slow down the massacre. You can lodge complaints with the Public Service Commission (1-800-342-3377 or http://www.dps.state.ny.us/complaints.html) , the state Department of Environmental Protection and elected representatives at all levels. A barrage of complaints when warranted directed at Con Edison via phone call, e-mail and letter can help..

There is always strength in numbers. But don’t hesitate. Too many priceless trees have been victimized already.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Blog By Residents of Sprain Road / Ridge Road Disaster Zone

From an email I received today:

We have created a blog: GreenGreenburgh.blogspot.com. If you can, please visit it and post anything you've done that would be helpful for us all to know in this fight against Con Edison. You can post information without being a member. If you don't mind joining as a "follower," you will get an email notice when new information is posted. The blog is brand new, and I plan to add a "What You Can Do" section sometime soon, to identify specific people to write, call, e-mail, etc.

We have created a Facebook Fan page (Keep Greenburgh Green) in hopes to more rapidly spread awareness of what's happening on Con Edison's 190,000 acres of ROWs.

Paul Feiner (Greenburgh Town Supervisor) has sent a letter to Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, Nita Lowey, Sen. Charles Schumer and the Chair of NYS Public Service Commission to request a meeting, locally, to discuss the damage, prevention of further damage, and parties responsible for reparations. As far as I know, there has been no response yet. My husband and I, as well as our neighbor, have all sent similar letters. It is important that as many of us as possible send letters out.

Aaron Schmidt (Greenburgh Town Forestry Officer/Environmental Planner) met with Con Edison representatives on Tuesday to discuss the fact that Con Ed did not file a Wetlands Clearance with Greenburgh prior to the clear cutting. This is a necessary document.

There have been three newspaper pieces in the last couple of weeks, and we got some coverage on Channel 12.If you know how to get us coverage on the bigger news stations, please do so. We've been writing to them.

The more research we do and the more we learn and talk to each other about our personal experiences with Con Edison since 2007, the more it becomes crystal clear that something is truly fishy about all of this. They have consistently lied and have often done exactly the opposite of what they have told us they were going to do. It is important that we unify and educate each other in this campaign.

If you can lend a helping hand, please let us know by replying to this email us with HELP in the subject line. We know everyone is busy; but the bigger entity we become, the more powerful we become.

Please, please, please get your friends, families, and neighbors on board.

Thanks for your time and interest in keeping our Greenburgh green!


Sincerely,

Kristina & Tom Bracken
Ridge Road

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Even in the Best of Neighborhoods - Permits Required!


Richard Gere facing $50,000 fine for tree slaughter


New York: Richard Gere is reportedly facing a fine of up to $50,000 for chopping down as many as 200 trees in Pound Ridge in Westchester. The Pretty Woman actor opened the bed-and-breakfast Bedford Post inside a restored farmhouse with wife Carey Lowell in February.

According to Bedford's Record-Review, the deforestation in nearby Pound Ridge to create a paddock for his horses was said to have not gone down too well with the neighbours, reports the New York Post.

Record-Review editor RJ Marx said, "The feeling is that he acted a bit precipitously in clearing the trees. People are somewhat disappointed that he didn't follow procedure."

Marx added, "Rather than seeking the proper channels and permits, he hired someone to cut them down. He's generally a good neighbor. It was out of character."

Another local resident said, "This is a town where money isn't an issue. What matters are good manners and caring about the community. People have been supportive of him, but I'm not sure what he was thinking."

Maybe They Should Simply Fund Ongoing Replanting and Site Restitution of Our Trees


Con Edison Saluted for Contributions to Westchester

November 23, 2009: 01:15 PM ET

The Association of Development Officers (ADO) has recognized Con Edison with its 2009 award for "Outstanding Corporate Philanthropy" in Westchester County.

ADO cited the diverse organizations the company supports and the utility's role in "contributing to and maintaining the social, cultural and economic vitality in their service area."

"The passion and commitment to improve the human condition is our common strength," said the ADO's Philanthropy Day Chair Linda Karesh. "It is fitting that we pay tribute to that strength now, as exemplified by the outstanding organizations and individuals that have been selected to be honored this year."

Con Edison's nominators included ArtsWestchester, the American Red Cross in Westchester County, the Business Council of Westchester, the Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation, the College of New Rochelle, Friends of Rye Nature Center, Greenburgh Nature Center, Grassroots Environmental Education, Historic Hudson Valley, Hudson River Museum, the Jay Heritage Center, the Newspaper in Education/Lend a Hand Foundation (of the Journal News), Scenic Hudson Inc., the Sheldrake Environmental Center, Teatown Lake Reservation, Westchester Community College, Westchester Community Opportunity Programs, the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester, Westchester Community Partners and the Westchester Library System.

"Today," noted Con Edison Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Frances Resheske, while accepting the award, "we are partners with more than 145 Westchester organizations -- large and small, established and emerging.

"We call our corporate philanthropy program 'Strategic Partnerships,' and our approach is simple: We work in collaboration with community partners to identify needs, and then assist in creating and funding programs that fulfill them."

An enduring example is one of Con Edison's first philanthropic efforts in the county, the establishment of the Westchester Scholastic Sports Award. Now in its 59th year, it has resulted in the presentation of more than $750,000 in scholarships to more than 2,200 students,
representing virtually every high school and community in Westchester. It is among the longest running corporate-sponsored scholar-athlete programs in the nation.

Con Edison is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc. (NYSE: ED), one of the nation's largest investor-owned energy companies, with approximately $14 billion in annual revenues and $34 billion in assets. The utility provides electric, gas and steam service to more than 3 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, New York. For additional financial, operations and customer service information, visit Con Edison's Web site at www.conEd.com.

Contact:
Media Relations
212-460-4111

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tired of Dead Trees - Change of Pace

Just wanted to post a couple of "happy images" for a change of pace. Photos are from Barney Creek outside my house in Irvington taken a few weeks ago. Enjoy.



Public Service Commission as Guilty as Con Ed


From Nov 17-23, 2009 Pleasantville Examiner - editorial page:

Last week’s clear-cutting of dozens of trees by Con Edison in Pleasantville should be a very troubling sign to everyone. Whether you’re a hardcore environmentalist or would simply like to see as much beauty and parkland preserved as possible, this latest chapter isn’t just an indictment of a utility that seems to throw its weight around with impunity but of the Public Service Commission as well.

What Con Edison’s tree removal contractor did on Nov. 8—a Sunday, no less—near Nannahagen Park was a travesty. Some trees had been on the site for more than a century. Others had been planted within the past 10 years and the village had spent hard-earned tax dollars making sure the park had a thriving ecosystem.

But make no mistake about it, this was no isolated incident or accident. This has beenCon Edison’s modus operandi since the PSC issued its 2005 order. Utilities must aggressively cut vegetation to eliminate any chance that tree limbs can interfere with power lines to avoid a repeat of the massive August 2003 blackout. As a result, the PSC directed all utilities providing electric power throughout the state to devise a plan. The scenario that played out Nov. 8 is one that has been repeated in municipalities in Westchester and presumably throughout the Hudson Valley. Con Edison properly notifies adjacent land owners and municipal officials, makes it appear as though nothing more than a little bit of housecleaning will be done and a
week or two later local residents are left with an environmental disaster on their hands.

Pleasantville’s latest battle is a replay of what Greenburgh, Hastings and Yonkers have experienced in recent years, according to State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The Examiner found that portions of Yorktown in northern Westchester and Clarkstown in Rockland County had similar fights. If a handful of municipalities that have been violated can be found so easily with a few quick phone calls, how many more around the state have seen their landscapes pockmarked by the utilities?

There are several problems with the “vegetation management” plans as the PSC likes to refer to this clear-cutting. A utility, in this case Con Edison, misleads local communities into thinking this is a relatively minor clearing or trimming of trees. There is no hint of the massive destruction that’s to come. Next, while the PSC’s order four years ago provided fairly clear guidelines of maximum tree heights depending on the proximity to power lines, the utilities appear to go overboard and are likely destroying trees that should be trimmed to avoid the expense of having to go back out and repeat the process in a few years. Finally, and perhaps most frustrating, is that the PSC, the entity that is supposed to watch out for the public good, has turned
a blind eye to the problems caused by this devastation. Until the PSC places clear and reasonable limits on what the utilities can and can’t do, hundreds of thousands of more trees will be lost, bringing all of the unwanted consequences that clear-cutting causes.

If Albany functioned like it should, then perhaps the state legislature could see fit to force the PSC to tighten up and actually look out for the public welfare. But with lawmakers unable to keep their own house in order, much less balance a budget, looking to Albany for help is an exercise in futility. Municipalities and residents are left on their own to remain vigilant. By demanding mitigation, communication and employing a full-court press on their state lawmakers perhaps the legislature will see the light and demand changes in how the PSC operates. If not, then the alternative is staring everyone in the face at Nannahagen Park.

Con Edison Tree Cutting & The Role of the PSC/DPS in Circumventing NY's Environmental Laws

Sun, Nov 29, 2009

Dear Supervisor Feiner:

I was nice meeting you on Wednesday.

As a former member of the Clarkstown Planning Board, I am well aware that your town has been a leader in promoting environmentally sensitive policies in the New York metro area.

Over the past few weeks, a significant environmental disaster has taken place in Westchester County. Many acres throughout Westchester have been transformed into a barren wasteland, as you will clearly see in the pictures below and as I believe you’ve now seen firsthand, based on calls from homeowners in your town!

Take a look at the photos… it’s as though a tornado blasted through your town and all parts of the county. Thousands of trees have been destroyed in Yonkers, Scarsdale, Hartsdale, Pleasantville, Yorktown Heights… basically everywhere.


I went around to various neighborhoods to speak with homeowners last Sunday before the holiday… it’s heartbreaking to hear their stories. Literally overnight, their property values have dropped drastically. All because of Con Edison’s cost-cutting moves and their “enablers” at the NYS Public Service Commission & Department of Public Service, which is the operational arm of the PSC.

Back in March, Con Edison’s President knowingly made false statements about his company’s plans to “trim trees” in Westchester County and NYC on or near transmission line right-of-ways to ensure service reliability. I’m attaching a copy of this press release. Here’s a portion of what he said in announcing that the National Arbor Day Foundation had just given his company an award for outstanding “tree care” near and around both transmission and distribution lines:

"We are delighted to receive this recognition. It signifies our continuing commitment to promoting, protecting and enhancing our urban forests," said Louis L. Rana, president of Con Edison. "Regular maintenance and natural pruning of trees improves electric reliability, and the trees in our service area will be with us to beautify our neighborhoods for years to come.”

When you look at the pictures, you’ll see they didn’t protect the urban forests… they destroyed them completely! And, they have no plans for mitigation and replanting, except to give a few meager plants to those who complain loudly enough.

As you’ll see in the press release, which I’ve highlighted in a number of places to show the false nature of Con Edison’s public statement, the company claimed that it was going to “trim trees,” but they didn’t trim trees – they cut them all down to the ground, which means more flooding (in a county that’s already had many flooding problems) and damage to the water quality from uncontrolled runoff and soil erosion. People had no idea this was going to happen… many were away at work while the trees were being cut and the printed notices that Con Edison provided to adjoining property owners were misleading about their true intentions. Con Edison rushed this project through, even working crews on Saturday and Sunday, just to prevent citizens, government officials and the media from stopping them.

How was this allowed to happen? The answer, which I obtained through FOIL requests, is that Douglas May, an employee of the Department of Public Service in Albany, together with his colleague, David Morrell, purposely circumvented New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) and Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law. In order to do so, Mr. May knowingly falsified the State’s Short Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), which he was absolutely not allowed to use for the purpose of massive tree destruction over 190,000 acres in New York, in order to provide a financial benefit to New York’s utility companies, including Con Edison. The Short EAF can only be used for projects of less than 10 acres! By using the Short EAF, the PSC was not required to notify other interested agencies such as NYC DEP, EPA, Westchester Department of Planning, etc., along with adjoining property owners, as would have been required by a Full EAF.

I personally believe that Mr. May should be investigated for having certified to be “true” his answers on the Short EAF that he specifically knew to be false, as indicated in his accompanying Memorandum that I obtained via FOIL. Furthermore, Mr. May served as both “Applicant” and “Lead Agency” to prevent anyone else from finding out about what he was doing, which is in my opinion very improper.

Con Edison claimed it was “protecting” urban forests, when in fact it had planned to completely destroy them – regardless of whether or not the trees could ever pose a risk to transmission lines… and in the process they used a well-known “pro-tree” environmental group, the National Arbor Day Foundation, to give cover to its actions and make the public think the company was really doing the right thing and being “green.”

I am attaching “Exhibits 1 thru 3” containing the PSC’s “Negative Declaration Under SEQR,” along with the Staff Memorandum and Short EAF upon which the negative declaration was based that ordered the destruction of all trees in utility right-of-ways, contrary to Con Ed’s press release last March that indicated only “tree trimming” would be done.

If a Full Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) was done, as had been required by law, all interested agencies, such as your town, the EPA, NYC DEP, County of Westchester Planning Dept., and others, together with adjoining property owners, would have been notified and given the opportunity for input. In a proper environmental review, the “applicant” would not have been allowed to serve as “lead agency,” and alternatives (such as tree trimming) and mitigation (such as planting “compatible” species of trees) would have been considered. Circumventing NY’s tough environmental laws were the fastest, cheapest way to help utilities like Con Edison save money on right-of-way maintenance expenses.

In many parts of your town, the damage is now done, but Con Edison and the PSC may be planning other tactics to expand their ability to cut down even more trees, as they did in getting permission from NYC DEP for the tree removal. THIS IS SPECIFIED IN PSC CASE 04-E-0822 FOR CON EDISON’S SERVICE TERRITORY WHERE THE VOLTAGES ARE HIGH AND THE RIGHT-OF-WAYS ARE RELATIVELY NARROW.

What can be done now? The first step is to contact your local Senate and Assembly members, as well as County legislative members, to ask for hearings into this matter. Mr. May, Mr. Morrell and Garry A. Brown, Chairman of the NYS Public Service Commission, should be called to testify, along with senior Con Edison representatives. Experts on SEQR from NYS DEC, the County of Westchester and the Town of Greenburgh should be brought in to give an assessment of the actions of DPS/PSC.

If the hearings determine that laws were violated in any way, the matter could be directed to the proper authorities and the PSC could be forced to conduct a Full EAF to prevent further damage and implement mitigation measures for damage already done in your community such as tree planting and installing fencing in the most egregiously impacted areas, as well as drainage control measures to prevent flooding.

Another possible route is filing an Article 78 claim against the PSC regarding Case 04-E-0822. Normally, the time frame for filing suit would have already passed, however because of the wrongdoing in this case, which was specifically designed to prevent public notification, most Courts would likely allow the suit to move forward, provided that the filing is timely from the time the impropriety is learned about.

Keep in mind… we all do need reliable electric service. An Full EAF would have achieved this goal, while also protecting the environment. The outcome might have dictated removal of a number of trees, especially where the existing ROW was narrow, but it also might have required a staging of the removal, interim trimming and the planting of new trees. And trees that posed no risk whatsoever could have been left alone. Other mitigation options might have included installing fences or flood control measures, as I indicated previously.

I also think the National Arbor Day Foundation should be contacted to have them informed about how Con Edison has been using their good name to destroy massive numbers of trees without any obligation for replanting “compatible” species.

Lastly, your town board can also craft and pass a resolution that could be sent to the media and various officials (Gov. Patterson, legislative leaders, Con Ed Chairman Kevin Burke, Con Ed Board members, County Executive, etc.) expressing dismay at the complete lack of concern for the environment symbolized by the actions of Con Edison and their failure to contemplate mitigation procedures in the pursuit of cost-cutting objectives that have seriously harmed your town, its residents and the overall environment.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you, and I will gladly testify at any hearings, including Senate/Assembly hearings in Albany.

Sincerely,
Marvin Baum

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Con Ed Petition - Take Action Now!

Just in from our neighbors along Sprain Road, Ridge Road and Underhill Road:

Citizen Action Group to Save Our Woodlands

Join your neighbors in forming a citizen action group to stop Con Ed from clear cutting our Woodlands.

As you well know, Con Ed has initiated “Tree Trimming” activities in our area that has resulted in the destruction of hundreds of acres of woodlands, as well as, the use of toxic herbicides to prevent re-growth, particularly on the Catskill Aqueduct, that end up in our drinking water.

Con Ed has chosen to discontinue a policy of pruning and maintenance and has adopted a new 20 year maintenance plan without any regard for the impact on the environment or the quality of life of the residents in the surrounding area. Not to mention, the economic impact on property owners, particularly in densely populated suburban areas where visual buffering can add a significant value to one’s home.

For many of us, it may seem as if it is too late. Our goal now is to stop further destruction and begin a massive replanting initiative on both public and private lands. We also insist that a sound barrier wall be constructed along the Spain Brook Parkway in residential areas to muffle the sounds of constant traffic and air pollution.

To sign the petition please fill out the information below and send to:

Tom Bracken
491 Ridge Road
Hartsdale, NY 10530

Name:
Address:
Telephone Number (optional):
E-mail:
Signature (required):

For more information please contact Tom Bracken: TVBNURSE@optonline.net or try this new address GreenGreenburgh@optonline.net

Download petition as PDF file
to print out, fill out, mail in.

What is the ROW?

Read about the destruction that recently occurred along transmission lines in Pleasantville. (Note: link is a pdf file from the Examiner News website archives, so it loads slowly.)

This article reports that the NYS PSC (Public Services Commission) 2005 guidelines for high tension line clearing are as follows:
  • trees planted 30 to 60 feet from transmission line should not exceed 15 feet in height
  • trees planted 60 to 90 feet away should not exceed 25 feet
  • trees 90 to 120 feet should not exceed 60 feet
I recent was emailed a copy of these guidelines to study in more detail. The guidelines are full of potentially nebulous or outright contradictory statements in my opinion (but I am not a legal expert...)

For example, the PSC outlines the need for environmentally responsible management of the woodlands and the ROW (Right of Way) with an eye towards minimizing public distress and outcry at the impacts of line clearing. It advocates a culling & replanting scheme which emphasizes growth of appropriately scaled trees (compatible species) under or near the lines. Yet, elsewhere, it clearly states that a multi-year program must be developed by transmission line utilities to clear cut the ROW for to ensure highest margin of reliability and safety.

The guidelines discuss the notion of ROW (Right of Way) as being a measurement from the centerline of the transmission towers. However, in the case of Con Ed, their legal ROW extends the full width of the Catskill Aqueduct easement. So it seems Con Ed is "over-extending" the intended PSC definition of ROW from that based upon center-line measurement to that of boundary line measurement. In such cases as along the Aqueduct, this creates a VERY WIDE swath of clear cutting reaching well into private property, calling into question compatibility with the PSC's stated environmental stewardship and landowner rights goals.

Related to this issue is another guideline obviously ignored by Con Ed: the PSC has placed highest priority on careful management of woodland resources at highly visible locations such as intersections/crossings of the high tension lines with public roadways. This is to ensure that proper visual buffers remain in place by which to screen off the transmission corridor. Just how has this guideline been followed at the Sprain Road / Underhill Road clearings?

In summary, these are some conclusions reached by a quick reading of the 2005 PSC Guidelines. It seems that although the goal of quality of service in mandated, the means to achieve this uninterrupted service has many gray areas left to be ironed out. That is why we need to reach out and engage our politicians and the PSC in a dialog which helps to more rationally define guidelines supportive of all of the community's needs (not just that of uninterrupted power).

Read the guidelines: NY PSC Case 04-E-0822.pdf

Friday, November 27, 2009

Free Con Ed PR?

In this week's Thanksgiving holiday issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise there is a new article which focuses upon the Sprain Road/Underhill Road area clear cutting along the Catskill Aqueduct.

The article does interview several local homeowners, but unfortunately too much uncritical space is given over to comments from Dan Lyons of Con Ed - who provides thinly-veiled PR and endless excuses for what they did along these high tension lines... To state that Con Ed sees itself as an steward of the environment is an outright falsehood - as demonstrated over and over again by their on-the-ground activities. It might make Dan and other like him within Con Ed management feel better to think this way, but the fact remains that the actions of Con Ed and its contractor, Lewis Tree Company, are creating massive local environmental degradation.

It is not clear in the article exactly what the clearance guidelines are by actual PSC regulation - the buffer extends anywhere from 30 feet to 130 feet according to the Con Ed spokesperson. However, clear cut criteria for the wider clearance buffer is not provided - save for the general statement that any tree whose fall could possibly come within the 30 foot inner buffer for the high voltage lines would have been removed. Obviously, this would target larger, older trees in any woodland.

In actual implementation, there appears to have been no on-site evaluation of tree size vs. risk -- EVERYTHING was mindlessly removed up to the full width of the Con Ed easement (even after residents had been informed that only trees within the inner 30 foot buffer would be impacted - removed or pruned to this buffer limit, as required.)

While I am glad that The Enterprise has covered this story for the community-at-large to read about, I am disappointed that such a significant percentage of the article body was provided to Con Ed with no apparent fact checking by the reporter or the paper. The core story is not simply the removal of the trees nor Con Ed's shifting justifications - but whether or not Con Ed is re-writing its PSC mandated line clearing guidelines on the fly, hoping to create enough doubt so as to lessen public outcry.

There is, however, one interesting line of argument brought up in the article but not followed through in any depth: the issue of the statistical analysis (or lack thereof) behind the clearance guidelines put in place by Con Ed. The article does note that over the last 6 years regionally, no high voltage line outages have been caused by trees in the right-of-way. Additionally, the regulations relied upon by Con Ed are described as being "regulatory expectations" - a notable turn of phrase by the Con Ed spokesperson. Don't we as informed readers need to better understand the twisted path from "expectations" to actuality ("everything within a 130 foot buffer must be cut")??

The ancillary story is a much broader one, concerning the need for a widespread grassroots effort to speak up loudly and clearly against such forms of environmental behavior by Con Ed. Even if the current guidelines provide leeway for Con Ed to make endless excuses, it is still seen clearly by the public to be what it is: corporate environmental misdeed.

We need to raise our voices to our regional representatives and environmental groups to ensure these crazy activities cease - in the name of our own health, safety and survival. In the name of our tree heritage.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Updated Con Ed Target Streets for This Week

Tuesday 11/24/09
Removals on N Broadway

Wednesday 11/25/09
S Eckar, pruning
S Dearman, pruning
N Broadway removals
S Broadway X Ardsley Ave E lower stump

Saturday 11/28/09
Hudson Road West by train station (W17-W19)

We Need More From Con Ed and Our Politicians

I met with representatives of Con Ed today (again). I was advised that the NYS Public Service Commission is aware of what Con Ed is doing. I was also advised that the work in Irvington is about over. If we are able to arrange a meeting with the PSC and state lawmakers your suggestions make lots of sense. Another suggestion: We should ask Senator Cousins and Assemblyman Brodsky to ask the senate and assembly environmental committees to review what is happening and to schedule hearings. They have supoena powers and state lawmakers might be more inclined to work on this than the PSC.

I suggest that those on our distribution list contact Senator Cousins and Assemblyman Brodsky. This is what we want:

1) A meeting with the State Public Service Commission.
2) A legislative hearing of the Senate & Assembly Environmental Committees.

Con Ed is willing to give us a limited number of plants---the town will be receiving some plant for sprain road (near Heatherdell) next week. I anticipate that we will do the planting next week. This is for the clear cutting that happened a few years ago.


- PAUL FEINER

Is Anyone Paying Attention Yet?

The answer appears to be a qualified "yes!" Over the weekend, emails were exchanged which show that the political wheels are starting to grind into motion. However, as noted by both David and MJ's comments (appended below) - the notion of letting Con Ed "get by" with some simple screening plantings (to lessen noise impact) is a travesty. The ecological destruction in the Sprain Road area (which is most likely occurring unreported to date in other locations up and down the path of the high tension lines along the Catskill Aqueduct) is far beyond that - clear cut destruction of acres of functional woodlands. An in-depth analysis of the lost ecosystem services should be undertaken and appropriate restitution requirements be put into place.


- From Paul Feiner -

This will go out tomorrow. I think that a community meeting with state lawmakers and the PSC would be helpful. - PAUL FEINER


To: State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky

Dear ---:

This letter is being written to request that your office set up a meeting with officials at the NYS Public Service Commission and residents of Ridge Road and surrounding streets that have been impacted by the Con Ed clear cutting. Some residents have called this a “crime scene”. Many trees have been cut down – some people feel that the trees that have been cut were not even near the transmission lines and were cut down for no valid reason.

We also would like the state to direct Con Ed to provide the community with some landscaping enhancements and to absorb the costs of noise barriers. The removal of trees has resulted in significant additional noise.

Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,

PAUL FEINER
Cc Nita Lowey
Senator Charles Schumer
Chair NYS Public Service Commission
Residents- Ridge Road



-- From Tom Abinanti --

Paul,

I would be pleased to join you in this effort - even co-sign the letter if you would like.

As you will recall, several years ago I held hearings and drafted county legislation similar to Greenburgh's to control Con Ed tree cutting. I did not pursue it when Con Ed started working with the communities on trimming around feeder lines and when our research showed our jurisdiction questionable in close proximity to high-voltage transmission lines.

However, the latest Con Ed actions may require us to get involved again.

Tom Abinanti

Thomas J. Abinanti
Westchester County Legislator - Dist 12
914-328-9000 Tel/Fax


-- Comment by David Bedell, Sleepy Hollow ECC --

In an ideal world Con Ed would, if it violated the law, be required to restore the forest it has cut down. Ecological restoration is much more difficult and much more expensive than landscaping. Restoration would be both the right thing to do and perhaps the cost would be sufficient to actually change Con Ed's future behavior.

Some references:

http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_about/parks_divisions/nrg/nrg_rest_prior.html

http://planning.westchestergov.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1492&Itemid=2454

David Bedell


-- Comment by MJ Wilson, Irvington ECB --

This work must be stopped until the environmental impact on all levels can be evaluated and planned for. The valuation of the environmental resources we have already lost is incalcuable. I cannot even imagine how the already damaged areas can be made whole in regard to stormwater retention, wildlife habitat, property values, visual/audio screening, regional visual identity, increased risk of invasive species intrusion into the disturbed areas.

Please act now to help us protect this vulnerable area of our County.

MJ Wilson



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holding Con Ed Accountable


Sprain Road near Ridge Road

On Nov 20, 2009, at 4:44 PM, Paul Feiner wrote:
I spoke to people at Con Ed today. They will discuss landscaping remediation with me and town officials. I will keep you advised. PAUL FEINER

To which I responded:
What is critical is to get Con Ed to cease and desist from continuing clear cutting activity (such as occurred around Sprain Road and Underhill Road) "up the line" thru the rest of Greenburgh - and ultimately into other Westchester municipalities.

Coming up with a Town restitution agreement is good, but let's not give in too quickly. The degree of damage both to public land and to private land needs a thoughtful recompense. Simply planting a few trees won't be an appropriate response for many of the affected homeowners - or to our native wildlife.

Additionally, I believe that the NYC DEP and other state officials need to be contacted and filled in on what is happening. Con Ed may be exposed to much greater fines and other sanctions based upon where and how they (or their contractors, Lewis Tree) acted.

Sure, Con Ed will want to quietly paper over this "crime scene" with a quick agreement with Greenburgh - so as to minimize negative blow-backs. In the longer term, without sufficient negative publicity and blow-backs, they will never stop this sort of activity leading to extreme environmental degradation.


If you agree that Con Ed needs to be stopped from further activity like this or if you believe that their line clearing in the village has been inappropriately executed, then please take a few moments to contact the PSC (Public Service Commission), our regional State Assemblyman and State Senator and the Governor's Office.

Contact information is below (in two recent postings from today and yesterday.)

State Politicians' Contact Info

Relevant contact info for our local districts (Greenburgh & Villages)

Paul Feiner -> pfeiner@greenburghny.com

Thomas Abinati -> tjaesq@aol.com


NY State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky
(D) 92nd Assembly District - Westchester County (Greenburgh)

EMAIL ADDRESS:
BrodskR@assembly.state.ny.us

DISTRICT OFFICE:
5 West Main Street
Suite 205
Elmsford, NY 10523
914-345-0432

ALBANY OFFICE:
LOB 422
Albany, NY 12248
518-455-5753


NY State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins
(D) 35th Senate District

EMAIL ADDRESS:
scousins@senate.state.ny.us
DISTRICT OFFICE:

86 Main Street
Yonkers, NY 10701

(Tel.) (914) 771-4190

(Fax) (914) 771-6045

ALBANY OFFICE:

State Senate of the State of New York
LOB
415
Albany, NY 12247

(Tel.) (518) 455-2585

(Fax) (518) 426-6811



NY Governor David A. Paterson

To Write To The Governor:

David A. Paterson 

State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224 

(Tel.) 518-474-8390 


Email - via web form - http://161.11.121.121/govemail

Updated Con Ed Targets for this Weekend and Next Week

Saturday:
Hudson Rd. West by train station (W17-W19)

Monday 11/23/09:
S. Dutcher: because of parking issues
Havemeyer X Deep Close: additional cuts to tree by customer request
Broadway, a few removals and minor pruning.
S. Broadway and Ardsley Ave East: lower stumps
Home Place: remove vine
S. Buckout: pick up debris and lower stumps

Wednesday 11/25/09 because of parking issues:
S. Eckar
S. Dearman

Friday, November 20, 2009

Had Enough of Con Ed's Actions?

Filing a Complaint with the Public Service Commission

On-line: You can file a complaint or review complaint statistics, comment on Commission proceedings; you may also ask a question about your utility service.
http://www.dps.state.ny.us/complaints.html

By Telephone:

  • Helpline (general complaints
    and inquiries):
    1-800-342-3377
    (8:30 am - 4:00 pm)
  • Competitive Energy Hotline complaints
    about Energy Service Companies:

    1-888-697-7728
    (8:30 am - 4:00 pm)
  • Hotline for terminations of gas or
    electric service:
    1-800-342-3355
    (7:30 am - 7:30pm)

By Mail:
Office of Consumer Services
NYS Department of Public Service
3 Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223


The Commission is charged by law with the
responsibility to set rates and ensure that
adequate service is provided by New York's utilities.
The New York State Public Service Commission,
Department of Public Service regulates:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Crime Scene Along Sprain Road

Anyone of you who may have driven along Sprain Road or Underhill Road near Sprainbrook Nursery probably remarked upon the large overhead high tension lines which march through the area following the path of the Catskill Aqueduct. I am sad to say that this area has become a true environmental crime scene through the actions of Con Ed and it's contractor Lewis Tree Service.

Where there used to be woodlands containing mixed hardwood trees, some over 150 years old, now there are stumps and felled trees lying in piles. This is part of Con Ed's line clearing activity - in this case, their guidelines call for clear cutting a buffer 50 feet on each side of the towers as well as the application of herbicides across the entire buffer so as to create a sort of visual DMZ that simplifies fly-over monitoring of the transmission lines.

click to enlarge

Does it matter that large swaths far outside of the 50 foot buffer were felled?

Does it matter that trees on steep slopes and along scenic roadways were felled?

Does it matter that many homeowners were given no notification?

Does it matter that their property values have now been significantly impacted?

Does it matter that the local government (Town of Greenburgh) took no action to halt, slow down or mitigate this activity?

Evidently not.

Hey, folks - if this is not a wake-up call, what is? The "Con Ed Problem" reaches far outside our Irvington niche - extending to environmental destruction on a large scale.

The decision does not have to be between ELECTRICAL POWER and TREES. Con Ed needs to be reigned-in by the state PSC to prevent more of this madness. Write the Governor, your local state Senator and Representative. Contact local media. Speak out!

Con Ed Target Streets for Friday, Weekend and Next Week

Streets for pruning for tomorrow (Friday 11/20):

Broadway

Brook Place

Barney Place


Random streets for go-backs and removals

N. Mountain Dr.


Due to parking constraints there are a few spots that will need clean up next week. In some cases there were cars parked illegally on no parking days.


Saturday:

Hudson Rd. West by train station (W17-W19)


Monday 11/23/09 because of parking issues:

S. Dutcher

Havemeyer X Deep Close


Wednesday 11/25/09 because of parking issues:

S. Eckar

S. Dearman


Con Ed Target Streets for Thursday 11/19/09

The streets for pruning in Irvington on Thursday:

S Broadway
Barney Park
Grinnell
Home Pl
Croton Rd
N Cottonet
S Eckar

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Con Ed Target Streets for Wednesday 11/18/09

The streets for pruning in Irvington on Wednesday:


N and S Broadway

S Buckhout

S Cottonet

Barney Park

S Dearman

Grinnell St

Croton Pl

Home Pl

N Hendrick

We need a Street Tree Master Plan NOW!

Posting contributed by Ann Acheson

I am first and foremost a "victim" of the tree butchering that took place on S. Dutcher Street, but am also a Landscape Designer, ISA Certified Arborist, Member of the Irvington Tree Commission and an activist for coming up with a Street Tree Master Plan for the Village of Irvington.

The Callery pear right in front of my house was "v" cut yesterday, leaving only 2 leaders, one hanging over the street and one hanging over my house (its just down from the picture shown in the posting from yesterday - below - but looks even worse!). There are a couple of really serious problems with this "pruning" that have nothing do to with aesthetics: first, it is well accepted that Callery pear trees are "weak wooded" - meaning that all the major leaders emanate from a single crotch, making the junction between leaders and trunk unusually weak. This is why they regularly drop their branches, even under "normal" circumstances. Second, these trees don't drop their leaves until well into December. When we experience a wet snow or an ice storm in the beginning of winter, these trees still have all their leaves, which become laden with snow or ice and become heavy burdens on the weak crotch. Third, since these are "street trees", they have only about a 3' wide strip of soil for their root zones, bounded on one side by a cement sidewalk and the other by an asphalt street. Not a lot of space to get all your nutrients and oxygen when you're 30' tall! Consequently the Callery pears are in serious decline all along Dutcher Street. Now with the extreme pruning, the tree is being asked to heal numerous wounds, which means it will need to use even more of its already practically non-existent reserves.

These Callery pears need to be cut down! They aren't trees anymore, they are mis-shapen bare trunks! There are only 3 of them left on our street, all of which have been butchered and have no landscape value, no aesthetic value and are imminently going to drop leaders onto cars or my house this winter. It is incumbent upon the Village to remove these trees! If possible, they should have Con-Ed come back and do it right now!

This is an ugly situation re-occurring on street after street in our Village. Given the Con-Ed policy and the reasonable desire of everyone to have their power supply uninterrupted, I think the Village needs to come up with a policy NOW about all of their street trees. There are clearly a lot of trees that can stay in place, but there are many trees that need to be removed and/or replaced because there are no long term prospects for them to be healthy and beautiful in their current locations. Why do we have street trees? To add beauty, shade, and maintain the urban canopy. These trees can do NONE of those things!

We need to have a discussion about how to replace street trees - whose responsibility (homeowner or village), can there be shared responsibility, who takes care of the trees, who decides which tree, who plants the tree, who removes the stumps etc. Speaking for myself and my immediate neighbors, we would be happy to share the financial responsibility and take care of new trees - anything to alleviate the eyesores that now dominate the front of our homes!

Here's hoping most of the rest of you don't come home to bozo trees today!

- Ann Acheson (edited by -mg- from original email circulated today.)

After Con Ed - What Next?

Once Con Ed has left the streets of the village, what should we as a community do to help recover and to be better prepared "next time"?

Read this white paper that I presented to the Village Board last night, Monday 11/16/09, outlining 8 specific steps to begin exploring.

After Con Ed - What Next? (.pdf)

Trees Provide Ecosystem Services

Why Con Ed Should Be Required To RE-PLANT


We all know intuitively that there is a significant ecosystems services impact in removing mature trees, especially those which are natives. Not only do the trees provide habitat and food source, they generate oxygen, sequester carbon, provide cooling shade and mitigate stormwater impacts. These are all key reasons why I believe that Con Ed should be mandated to replant after removals.

Here's an article (pdf) on suburban biodiversity by Doug Tallamy - a researcher from Univ. of Delaware - about the ecosystem services of native trees and shrubs, outlining their foundational impact on the local food web. This is very important work covered in much greater detail in his book "Bringing Nature Home".


If we want to avoid extinction - our extinction as well as the biota we love around us (song birds, butterflies, foxes, etc.) - we must begin immediately to restore the landscape. This means planting native trees, shrubs, perennials and so forth, in a plan that (re)establishes functional layers (such as canopy, understory and ground level), habitat buffer zones and migration corridors.

Environmental restoration can begin one property at a time, your property and then your neighbor's and so on. The matrix of resources required to sustain native wildlife, to sustain the quality of our air, water and soil will be rebuilt and each of us will become reconnected to the natural world once again.

But as long as utilities such as Con Ed continue to be given free hand so as to maintain our electrical power fix regardless of environmental impacts, the consequences of their actions work directly towards the demise of our landscape, our habitat and our species. Ask Doug Tallamy - he would be quite certain of this!

Recent Media Coverage


Rivertowns Enterprise Coverage
November 6, 2009
November 6, 2009 - Editorial
November 13, 2009

River Journal
November 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Con Ed Target Streets for Tuesday 11/17/09

The streets for pruning in Irvington on Tuesday:

S. Broadway
N. Cottonet
N. Dutcher
River Road
N. Buckhout