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Grand Central Pkwy. to get more trees

Hundreds of trees and shrubs will be planted along the Grand Central Parkway in Jamaica Estates in an effort to decrease pollution and noise, U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) and city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe announced Monday.

“In addition to beautifying the parkway, these critical trees and shrubs will finally provide relief to the endless amount of noise and air pollution that has long plagued homeowners who reside near the highway,” said Ackerman, who secured about $400,000 in federal funding needed for the planting project.

Ackerman, Benepe and civic activists gathered Monday morning to plant one of the 60 evergreens that are being planted along the parkway and the service road this fall. An additional 158 trees and 428 shrubs will be planted along the parkway this spring. The trees and shrubs will be along both sides of the Grand Central from Utopia Parkway to 188th Street in Jamaica Estates.

Benepe said the foliage will help to reduce the amount of noise and air pollution that has affected homeowners since the early 1960s, when the Grand Central Parkway was widened for the 1964 World’s Fair.

“These are beautiful homes in Jamaica Estates, but when they widened the highway they stripped a lot of the greenery,” Benepe said. “Luckily we’re putting it back.”

Benepe called the trees “amazing pollution-fighting machines” and said the new foliage should help to increase property values in the neighborhood because the Grand Central will no longer be so detrimental to residents’ quality of life.

“There’s been noise and pollution and soot that comes up from the parkway,” said Michael Bookbinder, chairman of the Jamaica Estates Civic Association. “The dust from the tires and the soot from emissions accumulate on outdoor furniture, and this will help.”

Bookbinder said Jamaica Estates residents had long lobbied the city to plant trees in the area but did not have much success, which is why he said they eventually went to Ackerman for help.

“We’ve waited 40 years for this,” Bookbinder said. “Trees will often take a back seat, especially when the Parks Department had many budgets cuts over the years. We were very happy we got Congressman Ackerman to focus on the problem and see the need for pollution control and some sound buffer.”

Ackerman originally received the $400,000 in federal funds to create a wall that would serve as a sound barrier in Jamaica Estates, but residents said they would rather have foliage in the area. The congressman said he was then able to use the same $400,000 to plant the trees and shrubs instead.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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