Sunday, March 21, 2010

Report of Long Term Effects of Clear Cutting Along Sprain Parkway

an email received on 3/19/10:

Dear Sirs/Madams:

You probably know of us by now, either by name or by address. We are the Brackens, and we live on Ridge Road in Hartsdale, NY. Our property lays adjacent to the New York City DEP’s aqueduct and its Con Edison right-of-way (ROW). This portion of the ROW runs adjacent to the Sprain Brook Parkway.

In the wake of the fierce winter storms that we have endured over the last several weeks, the sun is shining brightly to warm us and remind us that Winter isn’t forever. The last few days were perfect for getting out for a walk, doing some yard work (to clean up the debris left behind by the storms), and opening windows to let the fresh air inside and rid our homes of the stale Winter air.. At our house, other then the walks, we're not going to be enjoying the outside OR enjoy being inside with open windows this Spring or Summer.

When Con Edison carelessly and unnecessarily clear cut the power transmission right-of-way behind our house, they removed every bit of protection we had from the Sprain Brook Parkway – protection from the noise, the pollution, the view, and the winds. They also removed our ability to enjoy our home – our quality of life – among other things, including the drastic decrease in property value. They removed trees that were very far away (at a safe distance) from the high voltage transmission lines. The vast majority of these trees and shrubs could never, in their lifetime, have posed a danger to the safe and reliable transmission of power along those high voltage lines. My husband has a degree is forestry from SUNY ESF, and we know this to be true.

When we bought this house ten years ago, the property was surrounded by woods in every direction and was our main reason for purchasing this home. We are nature lovers and felt confident in the protection of the woods, as we knew that land above an aqueduct cannot be developed. The highway sound, though audible, was a white noise from behind acres of trees which could not at all be heard behind closed windows or over outdoor conversation. Headlights on the highway could be seen only during the Winter as faint, flickering lights between the trees through only a small section of trees. We put our blood, sweat and tears into creating a haven for ourselves on our deck and in the beautiful yard outside our tiny home.

As a direct result of the clear-cutting, the highway noise now unendingly whooshes through our home – in every room and with the windows closed. We now see headlights from the highway from every single window – from all four sides of our home – for one entire mile. The lights fly across the ceilings at night and are very distracting in one’s peripheral vision while trying to concentrate on anything.

We don’t see any woods from our yard anymore. The ROW trees are gone. And, the large trees that stood on our property between us and our next door neighbor had grown tall with the wind protection that those woods provided. Many of them were destroyed during the first few winds of season, with their protection gone as a result of the clear cutting – not as a result of these last two storms.

Yesterday, I got home from a very long day at work after a very long week and was looking forward to eating an early dinner on my deck. As I got out of my car in my driveway, I realized that I had forgotten that this is not an option anymore. The loud highway noise is intolerable outside. In addition, the concept of sitting outside and breathing highway air filled with exhaust, with not a single leaf between us and the road pollution, is sickening and angering.

It’s a silly phenomenon that when the power is out, so many of us unconsciously flip light switches, open the refrigerator, and even attempt to put something in the microwave, forgetting that nothing will work. When we do this, we often laugh at ourselves at how we do these things without thinking about it – automatically. In the same way, over the last few beautiful days I have looked forward to being outside in my yard, as habit, only to be sadly reminded that there’s no enjoyment to be found there. I have opened a window, sadly and infuriatingly to be reminded that it’s too noisy to leave open.

For ten years, I have looked forward to our annual Easter family gathering, where we all sit outside before dinner if the day is nice, watching our nephews go on their egg hunt. I’m sure nobody will see the point this year. We really don’t want the children in our family (or anybody else’s) breathing the car exhaust directly from the highway. It’s too loud to have a conversation without raising one’s voice, and it’s ugly to see a mile of the highway unobstructed by the absolutely beautiful tree line to which we were all accustomed.

Again, this morning, as automatically as it’s been during every bright, warm morning, I sleepily opened my deck door to have my coffee outside. It was like being slapped in the face by noise. It’s no less noisy on our deck than it is on the shoulder of the highway. I came back inside angry and heartbroken that we have been put in this miserable living situation – not by some act of God, not by some necessary evil, but by an irresponsible and negligent act by a company that, with the alleged goal of doing something good for its customers, unnecessarily did something very, very bad.

Representatives from Con Edison have been working toward a replanting in some areas where the trees on the ROW protected homes from impacts of the highway. We have been told that there will be trees planted along the Department of Transportation’s right-of-way along the Sprain Brook Parkway behind our home. While this will help, and is appreciated, it is not enough. It will take more than a row or two of trees planted in one section of the ROW to replace the benefits that acres of woods have provided to our town, its residents, and its wildlife.

We demand that an effective and attractive sound and vision barrier be erected to correct this situation (dense plantings of trees with or without compliment of a wooden wall), as is done on other highways close to homes in this region. We need Con Edison, the NYS DOT, the PSC, our politicians, and everyone else who has power to help remediate this problem – not just for us, but for all of the residents who have been affected by this undue act of destruction of wildlife that served so many valuable purposes.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration of this matter.

Kristina M. Bracken
Hartsdale, NY 10530

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