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Chopped City Now: Tearing of the Green On Roosevelt Island

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Once “Tree City USA,” the local New York neighborhood is now “Roosevelt Island Chopped City.” Devastation of local greenery, a years long process, accelerates and adds rudeness and intimidation to the mix.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

“I am convinced that Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is on a mission, depriving us of ALL of our island bushes and trees,” wrote a concerned 20-year resident. “Our streets used to be lined with blooming rose bushes and beautiful trees. Now all of them are getting cut down.”

She preferred remaining unnamed for fear of reprisals.

Local and Beyond, 24/7: Roosevelt Island News

A tweet shows the artless denuding of shady green space that treated residents and visitors for years. RIOC calls it “rejuvenating.”

It’s more like a drive to reinvent Roosevelt Island as a piece of suburbia. Only nonresidents dream of such things.

From the wipeout of weeping willows once filling a corner in Lighthouse Park to the current redesign of Southpoint, removing the green has been a RIOC focus for at least a decade.

Rich greenery disappears, and yesterday, state landscapers added rudeness and intimidation to the scheme.

Watch as RIOC groundskeepers, engaged in denuding the landscape, order a resident to stop recording them.

Roosevelt Island, Chopped City

A reader contacted us about RIOC’s “butchering” shrubs above the West Promenade on Tuesday, July 7th, but that was just a start.

The next day, RIOC’s crew added rudeness, then intimidation to the ugly mix.

A burly groundskeeper, improperly wearing a face mask below his nose, ordered a resident to “stop recording us.” When the resident resisted, he called in Public Safety.

PSD officers showed up, demanding identification. eBike riders on promenades, running stop signs and crosswalks, don’t get the same attention.

RIOC Responds

We shared the video with acting president/CEO Shelton Haynes and told him about PSD’s response.

“After speaking to our Director of Landscaping and Horticulture, our Grounds Department was in the process of rejuvenating overgrown Ilex glabra (inkberry) plants. The overgrowth threatened to infringe on the walkway of the promenade, shade out other plantings and inhibit visibility in the area.”

The image speaks for itself, and it contradicts the core of Haynes’s statement.

“Where is the accountability for these egregious acts of ignorant destruction of our beautiful used to be green island?” our reader asks.

As an unidentified resident pleads with groundskeepers, she’s answered with indifference.

“Is there a guarantee that tomorrow we will not wake up to the entire island asphalted over to save the cost of maintenance for RIOC?”

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9 Comments

  1. I believe it was Joni Mitchell that sang “they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot”. We must save our Paradise from these people who don’t even live here.

  2. Ilex glabra can take some brutal pruning, but I think the real issue is a lack of communication by RIOC when they undertake such landscaping projects that are not regular maintenance, such as extensive pruning, tree removal, etc. It would take a few minutes to make a sign or two explaining that “Severe pruning done to promote shrubs’ health and beauty.” RIOC must understand that many residents love, treasure, and follow the status of trees, shrubs, flowers on the Island, so when we see them cut back, cut down, or severely trimmed, we are concerned about the intent and the outcome of the actions. We really love and care for the plants and animals of our urban island! RIOC could begin to build needed trust with plant lovers and the larger community by just taking a bit of time to communicate the purpose and outcome of its landscaping actions. Thanks!

    • Thank you, Jack. You pretty much nailed it. The bulk of RIOC’s wounds in the community are self-inflicted, and the fact that no RIOC executive has ever lived on the Island helps explain the radical disconnect.

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