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Waterfront Park Being Constructed At Columbia University Sparks Tree Fight

Some Argue Trees Shouldn't Be Cut, But Project Calls For Planting 30 New Ones
This artist rendering shows the public space at Columbia University that is expected to be completed this fall. (credit: Columbia University)

This artist rendering shows the public space at Columbia University that is expected to be completed this fall. (credit: Columbia University)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Plans to turn a section of Columbia University into a public space¬† is dividing nearby residents.

The design requires that a number of mature trees in that neighborhood get chopped down, which seems to be the primary point of contention.

Inwood Hill Park is arguably the pride of the northern Manhattan neighborhood that is located on West 218th Street and Indian Road.

Construction at the location is about to begin on a new public space and in order to comply with zoning regulations, Columbia University will turn 40,000 square feet of property — next to its Baker Athletic Complex — into a waterfront park.

It will feature a boathouse, an open lawn area and a restored salt marsh. But in order to give the public access, they’ll have to cut down a row of mature trees and some neighbors are anything but pleased.

“I think it’s a negative,” Inwood resident Patricia McCullough told CBS 2’s Elise Finch.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” said Vanessa Martir. “And a lot of these trees are very, very old, so I think just the culture of the neighborhood it’s one of the things that we prize about the neighborhood.”

A spokesperson for the university said their design team worked closely with a natural resource consultant and the parks department and determined the following: “To create or restore a salt marsh there needs to be full sunlight…which involved the need to remove several trees along the southern edge of the restored marsh.”

The spokesperson went on to say that the project calls for the planting of over 30 new trees throughout the area.

Lots of people in the neighborhood said they’re reserving judgement until the project is complete, but some people CBS 2’s Finch spoke to said they’re already fans.

“It’s not a big section we’re talking about and all the wonderful additions we’re going to get to the park. It’s a bonus,” Jay Meetze said.

“I don’t have any particular attachment to these trees as opposed to new trees if what they end up doing is nice,” MaryAnn Betsch said.

The entire project is scheduled for completion this fall.

Where do you stand on the project?¬† Share your thoughts in the comments section below…