Save the Putnam Trail Announces that Hurricane Sandy Shows up NYC Parks Department

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Storm shows why the city's plan to pave over a popular historic nature trail is a bad idea

Bucolic nature trail about to be paved

Why is the City pursuing this plan when it's letting go teachers and cutting programs?

The hurricane that battered the region and caused billions of dollars in damages provides another reason for not paving over an historic nature trail, according to Save the Putnam Trail, a grassroots campaign aimed at changing the city's plan to a more economical and environmentally-friendly one.

The city is using $1.45 million in federal taxpayer dollars and another $960,000 in city taxpayer dollars to pave over the trail, and over community resistance. The group notes that this comes at a time when the country is facing budgetary woes, resulting in cuts to teacher jobs and popular community programs. A costly hurricane that may not be an isolated event in the future does not help this situation.

"We have to ask why the city is pursuing this plan at a time when it's letting go of teachers and cutting important programs," said Michael Oliva, a coordinator for Save the Putnam Trail. He pointed to federal aid helping to rebuild after Sandy, but also noted that unseen costs in the billions of lost income make how taxpayer dollars are spent especially important.

The city is expected to have a $1.15 billion shortfall in 2014 after planning $1 billion in spending cuts; and a potential $635 million shortfall for 2013. In addition the federal government has been posting a more than $1 trillion deficit each year since 2008. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated the cost of the storm at $33 billion; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pegged damage at $29.4 billion; and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy estimated at least $360 million in damages.

NYC Parks Department's plan would widen the one-and-a-half mile historic nature trail through Van Cortlandt Park to 15 feet and pave 10 feet of its width, removing nearly 2 acres of forest and 400 trees at a cost of $2.41 million in taxpayer dollars. Save the Putnam Trail has proposed at the least widening it less and using a stone-dust surface in keeping with the character and history of the park. Known for its trails and forests and many recreational outlets, the 1,150-acre park is the city's fourth largest. The parks department's own website has a poll showing more than half of respondents (54%) value the park's forests and trails most.

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