"An improvement"
Jun 09, 2013 | 4481 views | 1 1 comments | 257 257 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

On Wednesday (5/27) Michael's Signs of West New York installed a sign at 11 a.m. on the corner of Palisade and Second Street. It displayed the layout of the artificial field termed "an improvement" in Washington Park. A man waiting for the 123 NJ Transit bus into NYC was shocked to learn that the stately, mostly healthy, vibrant rows of 80-plus-years old trees will be chain-sawed and laid waste so that not even their finger-like roots will remain. At least 39 will cease to exist and should the trees that line Patterson Plank Road and Second Street nearest the park be cut down that number will rise to 53.

As I walked my dog, I came across a young couple, one who was on the verge of tears as she looked at the layout then the row of sycamores shading the lawn. The man with her said he had spoken to Mayor Stack opposing the mass wipe-out of these trees but the mayor said he loved trees and pontificated that the new field will be beautiful. This couple had even signed a community petition asking the mayor to spare the trees but Mayor Stack remained unmoved. He had both the support and agreement of the Washington Park Association on this. The woman confessed to me that she felt she as a citizen had no power. I disagreed and reminded her that she cared enough for the trees to take political action by signing a petition. While others react with helplessness, apathy, cynicism that "you can't fight City Hall" she resisted those impulses in hopes that her voice would be heard. Her affirmative choice was empowering.

A pebble dropped in a pond sends out waves and her action was like that pebble. Finally I empathized with her desire to weep for the destruction of each and one of those Mother Nature trees for their obliteration will be total: the most sweeping, most massive of its kind under the Stack administration. With one executive stroke of his pen he executively doomed and sealed the fate of those trees forever.

On a philosophical and ecological note, in the end, Mother Nature is more powerful than any individual, even a politician. Take away all the algae, all the trees, all the microorganisms that give us life and how much power will it take to stop our suffocating lungs as we grasp for breath? Photosynthesis, the gift that keeps on giving. These Washington Park trees have been our neighborhood's Trees of Life and now they will be taken from us. You, young woman, did not lose, they did. I, too, weep for their loss but I rejoice that others cared enough to try to preserve a vernal parcel of Eden. You have my undying gratitude. You, and the others who stood on the side of Mother Nature, are like the force of rain drops that fill an ocean. One act when joined by others leads to a chain reaction of change. Let me break free of my usual stoic posture, to thank my precious and beloved wife, Judy Stone, my Lioness of a Woman, for her sacrifice and bravery as she and the Union City Neighborhood Association tried to save the Washington Park trees in Union City. Likewise to all those citizens in Union City and Jersey City who told of their love of these wonders of nature, thank you! Ghandi said we must be the change before we can change others. Change comes slowly but it's irrevocably transformative.

One who stands in awe of Mother Nature,
Tony Squire

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June 17, 2013
Allow me the pleasure of appreciating both the Hudson Reporter and the many readers who took time to familiarize themselves with this improvement of an existing baseball field in Union City's Washington Park. I am especially pleased and glad that the Hudson Reporter published my letter when others remained silent in the face of such loss of life for so many trees.

It is never an easy decision for a long-time resident of Union City to disagree with Mayor Stack on a pet project but I chose to take the risks as well as the consequences that follow.

Many people felt sickened and expressed shock that such destruction would be wrought on old but healthy trees that can live up to a few centuries.

I can not forget the face of that young woman on the verge of tears and the sense of helplessness she expressed, and frustration that Mayor Stack was unmoved.

People all over Union City have privately confided in me that they are deathly afraid to go on record opposing this improvement for fear they will face retaliation or see their job in the city vaporize. I understand that and respect their decision because they have family well-being to consider.

In the face of antagonism, I chose to push on to the bitter end. I am not fragile like glass and have survived the storm.

But this is not about Tony Squire. More is out stake than one ordinary man or civic group because Our planet's life is at stake given the scientific evidence on global warming and species decimation. Trees play a role in our health but all too often they are swept aside for some other artificial landscape or out of convenience or political exigency, to name a few.

Activists take heart and community vanguards take heart. Proceed with courage and conviction until you prevail and that can take quite some time.

It has meant much to meet people in my neighborhood and park users and fellow residents to give them a chance to speak freely and without fear about the fate of the trees in our one-on-one conversations. What freedom!

Thanks to everyone and the readers! I take heart and am grateful exceedingly. I do really feel sad about all those trees being killed but I will carry their memory for a long, long time.

Like John Muir who founded the Sierra Club, I stand in awe and wonder in the presence of Nature. I hope you will catch the spirit too.

Tony Squire