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Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Home Government County: the Playland Trees Cut Down Were Not Viable, New Trees Coming

County: the Playland Trees Cut Down Were Not Viable, New Trees Coming

(PHOTO: This historical photo - undated - shows how extensive the tree coverage was both up and down the pedestrian mall and in Playland's main front plaza at the entrance and in front of the Ice Casino.)
(PHOTO: This historical photo – undated – shows how extensive the tree coverage was both up and down the pedestrian mall and in Playland’s main front plaza at the entrance and in front of the Ice Casino.)

In an update to our story on Monday, Westchester County says the twenty-two 90 year old Northern Red Oak trees cut and removed from the Playland mall were no longer viable. A series of County experts concurred with the removal decision, and forty-six new Swamp White Oak trees will be planted as part of the renovation. Healthy Oak trees can live for 300-400 years.

“We we love trees, we support trees, we loved those trees – those are great trees,” Communications Director for Westchester Catherine Cioffi told MyRye.com, describing the twenty-two 90 year old Red Oak trees that were along the Playland Mall.

“But the reality was that the roots were very damaged,” she continued. “And just because they had leaves doesn’t mean that they were viable trees. They were not viable trees they had they had sort of reached the end of their of their life. Those trees are over 90 years old. And what was happening was that they were creating a dangerous situation. Basically, the limbs of the trees would just fall sometimes.”

Cioffi said the County is continuing to provide landscaping services at Playland via a memo of understanding with Standard Amusements but that the new Swamp White Oak trees are being planted by a vendor chosen by Standard Amusements.

The Decision Making Process

Both the County and Standard Amusements had landscape architects that reviewed the condition of the then existing twenty-two 90 year old Northern Red Oak trees. MyRye.com has asked for and not yet received the review conducted by Standard, but a Westchester County Parks Tree Removal Form from January 10th shows a review by Ken Uhle, a landscape architect and the Program Coordinator-Capital Planning-Park Facilities for the County. Uhle has worked for the County Parks for thirty years.

Uhle says in the form seeking approvals “More than 50% of the mall trees have died out. What remain are in decline, have a limited canopy and far from specimen quality. As the mall and Playland are being extensively restored the trees will be further impacted. The plan calls for planting 46 swamp white oaks at a 7”-9” cal. [Caliper is the diameter of the trunk] which is a large tree to start with and will make an immediate impact.”

The recommended removal was approved the same day by Westchester County Parks Commissioner Kathy O’Connor and a month later by Chair of the Westchester County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Board J. Henry Neale Jr.

Photos Tell the Story

The County document also shows Playland mall landscape studies that show historical, current day (before the tree removal) and future photography and sketches on the Playland mall and its trees.

The Southeast Arcade view of the Playland Mall before the planned renovation with the then existing twenty-two 90 year old Northern Red Oaks:

(PHOTO: The Southeast Arcade view of the Playland Mall before the planned renovation with the then existing Northern Red Oaks.)
(PHOTO: The Southeast Arcade view of the Playland Mall before the planned renovation with the then existing Northern Red Oaks.)

This sketch shows the Playland Mall’s Southeast Arcade view after the planned renovation with the 46 new Swamp White Oaks.

(PHOTO: This sketch shows the Playland Mall's Southeast Arcade view after the planned renovation with the new Swamp White Oaks.)
(PHOTO: This sketch shows the Playland Mall’s Southeast Arcade view after the planned renovation with the new Swamp White Oaks.)

This historical photo – undated – shows how extensive the tree coverage was both up and down the pedestrian mall and in Playland’s main front plaza at the entrance and in front of the Ice Casino.

(PHOTO: This historical photo - undated - shows how extensive the tree coverage was both up and down the pedestrian mall and in Playland's main front plaza at the entrance and in front of the Ice Casino.)
(PHOTO: This historical photo – undated – shows how extensive the tree coverage was both up and down the pedestrian mall and in Playland’s main front plaza at the entrance and in front of the Ice Casino.)

“We were advised that these trees, while beautiful, were unhealthy with roots damage and instability during prior weather incidents; the trees were compromised and a danger to visitors,” Rye guy and County Executive George Latimer told MyRye.com. “Limbs have fallen during past wind storms; if one had fallen and killed a child or beloved pet, there would be no defense for knowing the jeopardy and failing to act.”

“Overall, we have been diligent in protecting all of our parks and have no interest in indiscriminate tree removal,” Latimer continued. “We cannot, however, ignore professional advice to remove trees when they represent a potential danger to people. And we plan to replace trees with new ones whenever we have to remove old ones.”

Read the County Parks tree removal and Playland Mall Landscape Studies document.

3 COMMENTS

  1. On the one hand, I applaud you for writing the follow up article clarifying the need to remove these trees. On the other hand, I wish you would have taken the time to investigate before writing the first article which was a one-sided critique of Standard, seeming to paint them once again as the antagonist. It’s stunning and disconcerting to me that Catherine Parker wasn’t aware of the safety issue associated with leaving the trees in place. It’s time to end the ongoing skepticism of Standard and begin to assume good intent.

  2. Ken Uhle was my neighbor in White Plains growing up. He is a dedicated public servant and a wonderful guy. Ditto for Kathy O’Connor, who has spent her career in the recreation and parks field, like her father, Joe Curtis, the Recreation and Parks Commissioner for White Plains, Boston, and New Rochelle. They are as professional and passionate about parks and recreation as they come. Good for you to follow up.

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