NEW YORK (CBS 2) — One of the most beautiful landscapes in New York City is being threatened by a road project, and residents fear it will forever change the character of their neighborhood.

Whether looking at the Pelham Parkway from the sky or the ground, many are struck by the grandeur of its majestic green canopy.

Now, though, the unique urban landscape is being threatened, reports CBS 2’s John Metaxas.

The city says it must cut down 87 mature trees, many of them beautiful European Lindens, as part of a $36 million road improvement project.

For residents, the loss of the trees is a personal matter. They’re old friends, after all.

“I feel bad. They’ve been here so long,” Baychester resident Joan Ribosh said. “I lived here in the 50s and 60s, and all the trees are still here.”

The city says the trees have to come down when the road is repaved because their roots extend underneath the roadway. Officials also say the trees pose a safety hazard.

The local community board supports the plan.

“It’s a very dangerous roadway – there are so many accidents,” community board member John Fratta said. “The trees are right against the roadway.”

Just two weeks ago, a livery cab driver suffered a heart attack and died after running into a tree.

The decision to cut the trees down, though, is not popular.

“If this were Central Park South, or Fifth Avenue, or Greenwich Street, they would do whatever it took [to keep them],” David Varenne, of the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance, said. “But because it’s the Bronx, they feel they can come in here and just slice them down.”

Residents want the city to reconsider the plan. New York Civic founder Henry Stern says it’s a question of values.

“Trees can’t speak for themselves – they can only whisper – so we have to come to their defense,” Stern said.

“They can work around it. I’m sure they can work around it,” Pelham Parkway resident Josephine Barresi said. “They can find a way to do both things. It’s very important.”

Opponents have collected more than 1,000 signatures against cutting down the trees. They say sometimes beauty should be the highest priority.

The city says the project is scheduled to start this fall.

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