By Mary Marvin, Mayor of Bronxville
May 11, 2022: As is custom, when the Trustees and I are discussing new initiatives that will have a direct impact on residents, it is incumbent upon us to give you a preview of the conversations that have begun.
In this case, it’s about joining many of our sister communities in enacting a tree ordinance. We are conducting extensive research as individual trustees, with tremendous help from members of the Green Committee, in order to learn best practices and frankly learn in some cases, what not to do. We will be relying heavily on the Green Committee and the Bronxville Historical Conservancy who both treasure trees from both a climate and historical perspective.
At the outset, it is important to start a collective village conversation in the hopes that we all join together to make a thoughtful community-based decision about what are really shared assets – our one square mile inventory of trees.
At the outset, it is helpful to think about viewing trees on our property as not ours alone, rather, that we are mere custodians of an aggregate landscape for all generations to come.
The impetus at this time for considering an ordinance is the fact that we continue to lose our tree canopy at a much too rapid rate to storms and some choices made by private property owners. In the past five to seven years, we have lost upwards of 50 municipal trees due to all the unprecedented storm and wind events. We are sadly confident that the number is equally similar on private property.
Like any other village laws, anything we enact will be a balancing act between the rights and desires of private property owners and the needs and benefits to the greater community. I know we can all agree on the importance of our tree stock, understanding all they do for our environment.
As example, they buffer climate change through carbon retention, reduce flooding and erosion, retain moisture, support wildlife, filter our air and produce the oxygen we breathe. They offer visual privacy as well as creating sound barriers. In our downtown and parking lots, they also help to reduce the heat on blacktop islands.
Just the very presence of trees creates a neighborhood or a place to rest, hang a hammock, sit under and have a picnic or read a book. We can also just respect the sheer majesty of some of our village trees, the fate of which is a responsibility that we should shoulder together.
We all understand that some trees need to come down and there’s every reason to cull those that are diseased, hollow, dead, dangerous, or tilting towards a dwelling.
A possible permitting process as to the removal of trees is just one component of a tree preservation process. We also need to have a strong policy of replanting trees and only indigenous ones.
What we plant in our yards and our public spaces has tremendous impact on the number of insects, birds, and other wildlife that our local ecosystem supports. We just have to be so careful that our trees are not ornamental or invasive. Scarsdale and Irvington actually prohibit the planting of any trees in this category as most plant specialists say that a property must have 70 to 80% native plants to support local wildlife.
Like many of our neighbors, we did not anticipate needing a tree ordinance but climate factors and building preferences have brought it to the fore. We have always required a landowner to obtain a building permit to put up a fence but not clear-cut stand on trees. And ironically, we mandate that you mow your lawn if you have left for the summer and do not properly maintain it, yet we don’t have anything on the books that would mandate us having you care about decade old trees. Not to be overly dramatic, but we do currently allow 100-year-old trees to come down without any repercussions. It is clearly time for reexamination.
Some of the factors under consideration include:
-The best method of judging when a tree needs a permit to avoid subjective opinions or over regulation. The most optimal method seems to be an objective determination by age, species, and caliper.
-We will also need professional assistance to determine if a tree under consideration is indeed diseased beyond redemption.
In many communities, when a tree is allowed to be removed, property owners are required to donate an amount of money to a tree fund to be used for municipal trees.
So many additional factors are currently under consideration, and I encourage you to reach out to us with your thoughts, ideas or any professional expertise you have to share.
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
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Bronxville is a quaint village (one square mile) located just 16 miles north of midtown Manhattan (roughly 30 minutes on the train) and has a population of approximately 6,500. It is known as a premier community with an excellent public school (K-12) and easy access to Manhattan. Bronxville offers many amenities including an attractive business district, a hospital (Lawrence Hospital), public paddle and tennis courts, fine dining at local restaurants, two private country clubs and a community library.
While the earliest settlers of Bronxville date back to the first half of the 18th century, the history of the modern suburb of Bronxville began in 1890 when William Van Duzer Lawrence purchased a farm and commissioned the architect, William A. Bates, to design a planned community of houses for well-known artists and professionals that became a thriving art colony. This community, now called Lawrence Park, is listed on the National register of Historic Places and many of the homes still have artists’ studios. A neighborhood association within Lawrence Park called “The Hilltop Association” keeps this heritage alive with art shows and other events for neighbors.
Bronxville offers many charming neighborhoods as well as a variety of living options for residents including single family homes, town houses, cooperatives and condominiums. One of the chief benefits of living in “the village” is that your children can attend the Bronxville School.
The Bronxville postal zone (10708, known as “Bronxville PO”) includes the village of Bronxville as well as the Chester Heights section of Eastchester, parts of Tuckahoe and the Lawrence Park West, Cedar Knolls, Armour Villa and Longvale sections of Yonkers. Many of these areas have their own distinct character. For instance, the Armour Villa section has many historic homes and even has its own newsletter called “The Villa Voice” which reports on neighborhood news.
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