The walkway is open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. But it is maintained by the neighborhood association, and the city was asked to determine if it can intervene to save the trees, since both developments are considered private gated communities.
Tree roots reportedly have caused parts of the concrete walkway to rise, creating a hazardous condition. The uneven walkway could cause people to trip, s well as increase the cost of regular repairs.
An arborist hired by the association determined that trimming the roots would not solve the problem and has recommended that the trees be removed.
Resident Denise Bailey said she and various groups that include the city wide parks coalition want to save the trees.
“The arborist said trimming the roots would make the trees unstable,” she said.
Bailey said she and others are seeking a second opinion and believe that the trees may still be saved.
While the city has the authority to regulate tree removal, and would have more authority under the proposed ordinance, some council members wondered if the city can override the wishes of the private community board.
The city has already issued a letter to the association about its concerns.
Bailey, in consultation with city Department of Public Works and representatives from the parks, said a better solution would be to replace the concrete slabs with pavers – a kind of brick – which would not lift the way concrete slabs would.
She said the trees benefit the local environment and the property values in the complexes, saving energy, water, and the removal of carbon monoxide. Both developments are located along the heavily-trafficked Route 440.
Legal staffers for the city said two of the three sections of the public walkway have been deeded to the city as a public right of way, which could give the city the authority to protect the trees. The association is in the process of deeding over the last portion.
Councilwoman Candice Osborne said she believes the city has the authority, despite the fact that the development is private.
Since the city’s new ordinance sets standards for planting and removal of trees by developers, the walkway issue could be an early test of the city’s authority over private developments.
The city currently is taking bids for a massive development just north of the current site, and the ordinance introduced would have significant impact on the green space in that property as well as other new development throughout the city.
The new ordinance
The council unanimously introduced an ordinance that would improve the approval process for tree removals, and set new tree-planting requirements for developers to help maintain and expand the city’s greenery
City officials said the ordinance will establish clear guidelines to replace the currently vague system of tree removal.
Mayor Steven Fulop said this would create clear guidelines for tree removals and specify the number of street trees that must be planted as part of new development projects. The aim of the ordinance is to standardize the process for tree removal and to ensure the continued expansion of the urban greenscape.
The new tree removal requirements will codify the process for tree removals based upon the health, size, hazards and species of the tree. To ensure preservation of the city’s tree canopy, there will also be requirements for tree replacements and tree protections during construction.
As part of the ordinance, Street Tree Standards will be created. These standards will be maintained and updated by the Division of Parks and Forestry as well as the newly-established Office of Sustainability, which is scheduled to launch in January.
“Throughout our administration we’ve made efforts to expand green infrastructure and increase Jersey City’s sustainability, including an aggressive tree planting program,” said Mayor Fulop. “Maintaining our greenery not only helps beautify our city and improve residents’ quality of life, but trees also help improve air quality, reduce flooding, muffle noise pollution, and reduce our carbon footprint.”
Currently, the Division of Parks and Forestry must approve any tree removal from city-owned property, although the current process is less standardized than what is being proposed. The updated language will help make the process more transparent and consistent.
Under the new ordinance, new development and redevelopment projects will be required to provide at least one street tree for every 25 feet of property frontage, and one tree for every ten parking spaces. To safeguard the health of newly planted trees, standardized tree planting and tree pit details are being proposed. New tree pits will have to be a minimum of 24 square feet. Additional requirements will be included to ensure that all landscaping is comprised of healthy, non-invasive, living plants.
“The Jersey City Parks Coalition is thrilled to see this new ordinance come to fruition,” said Laura Skolar, president of the Jersey City Parks Coalition. “We have worked with the city through our City of Trees initiative on some of these very issues since 2015. This much-needed action will not only help to increase the city’s tree canopy but will serve to protect and maintain the valuable old growth trees that exist throughout our neighborhoods.”
In an effort to make Jersey City cleaner and greener, every year the Department of Public Works encourages tree planting on public property by releasing citywide Tree Planting Applications through the Division of Parks and Forestry.
Interested residents select a preferred planting location and tree species, which are then confirmed by the Director of Parks and Forestry. Final locations and species are dependent on location conditions and available growing space.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.