Sunday, March 26, 2006

Schenley Plaza project uproots old trees

Told you so. I obected to this project years ago. It is a waste, a joke and very expensive. To build a merry-go-round is very fitting -- as it is a living example of what to do for total frustration. A merry-go-round is designed so you can never get ahead. It is even a 'poor' (pun intended) 'cheap thril'.
Schenley Plaza project uproots old trees: "Not long after the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy had 10 London plane trees cut down there last week, several University of Pittsburgh employees and others fired off e-mails to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
'One by one, [the trees] were systematically mowed down,' wrote John Hempel, a member of Pitt's Department of Biological Sciences, who also is chair of the Braddock Hills Tree Committee. 'Apparently, old trees need not apply for space at their new plaza.'"
The merry-go-round project takes away parking spaces -- in a lot where people would wait in line to park. Often there were 10 to 15 cars in a que just sitting to wait to enter the parking lot.

People who live in Pittsburgh understand where to park and how to slide into the side streets and garage spaces. But people who visit don't. It was often visitors, a precious asset that we need, that used that parking lot that is now but a memory.

The parking lot could have been turned into a parking garage -- with green space on top of the garage. I would have loved to have seen a second level of that garage with bike and pedestrian ramps from all directions and over all the near-by roads. Then the parking incomes could have supported the building of the garage -- upwards.

Pittsburgh needs to build UP.

Pittsburgh's centers of business, academics and density needs to get away from this 'green space' fascination and make more functional, buseinss friendly junctions.

Even the vendors took it to the teeth (pun intended) with this plan. We used to be able to get a hot dog, or some other goodies, from the push-carts. Pitt didn't like them cutting into their 'food court operations.'

Next we'll get an upscale garden cafe for a high-tea and place to wear your big Easter Hat.

Forget the ride with two Double E tickets and give me a free swin set that costs nothing.

In Georgetown, as In D.C., the football team holds its practices on the roof of a parking garage, because space is so tight. There is a nice green space lawn at the front of Soldiers and Sailors Hall. That is a great example of good space use. But, they didn't see that? Nor do out of town visitors who are looking for a short-term parking space either.

We could also try to turn this space into a 'free speech zone.' Yeah, right.

Here is my simple test, Q1: How much "coaching" is going to happen in this park? -- NONE.

Test two: Are the rich getting richer and poor poorer? YES.

Test three: Does it help with flow? NO.

So, this place will do little for fitness, flow nor freedom. It even hurts our city's finances as there are going to be less parking incomes and less parking tax collected. This little park is a concentration of resources in places that don't need further investments when there are so many other more worthy places that are such great need.


Anonymous said...

Schenley Plaza project uproots old trees

Rot discovered in London planes planted in 1921
Saturday, March 25, 2006

By Patricia Lowry, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette photos
A view from the Cathedral of Learning shows the round location for a tent at Schenley Plaza. To the right is where the 28-foot carousel will be located.
Click photo for larger image.

If a tree falls in a forest, there might not be a soul to see it or hear it. But when large, majestic trees fall in a public place such as Oakland's Schenley Plaza, people notice.

Not long after the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy had 10 London plane trees cut down there last week, several University of Pittsburgh employees and others fired off e-mails to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"One by one, [the trees] were systematically mowed down," wrote John Hempel, a member of Pitt's Department of Biological Sciences, who also is chair of the Braddock Hills Tree Committee. "Apparently, old trees need not apply for space at their new plaza."

The conservancy's $10 million transformation of the plaza, between Hillman and Carnegie libraries, from car park to people park is almost finished, and with it has come the loss of many of the plaza's beloved old trees.

When the plaza was finished in 1921, it was flanked by double allees, or walkways, of young London plane trees, four regimented rows on its west and east sides. Distinguished by their exfoliating bark, the trees, over time, grew into tall, sheltering canopies at the edges of the plaza, which became home to ever-increasing numbers of parked cars. But just as the plaza is about to get a new life, its greatest amenities are nearing the end of theirs.

Phil Gruszka, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy's director of parks management and maintenance, shows where a older London plane tree shows signs of rotting.
Click photo for larger image.

The trees that came down were rotted, said arborist Phil Gruszka, the conservancy's director of parks management and maintenance.

"They all had decay in them," Mr. Gruszka said, adding that when he joined the conservancy in December 2002, one of his first recommendations was to replace the plaza's entire collection of London planes over time. "It's important to have mature trees of a fairly large size represented on the site, so we wanted to do it in stages."

To understand the condition of the trees that were removed, Mr. Gruszka said, take a look at the large cavities evident in some of those that remain in front of Carnegie Library. At least one of those holes appears to be hosting a family of starlings.

At some point in their history, probably early on, the Schenley Plaza trees' branches were severely cut back to produce dense new growth. The pollarding resulted in weaker main branches than if the trees had been left to grow naturally.

Last month, 33 new trees in front of the library and Pitt's Frick Fine Arts Building replaced ones that had been removed. The trees must be replaced in groups because they don't grow well in the shade of tall trees.

On the opposite side of the plaza, in front of Hillman Library, one of the original trees remains. Those allees had been depleted in recent years as dying or hazardous trees were removed, and 18 were taken down when the plaza makeover began.

The conservancy hopes to attract a restaurant at the site of the 10 trees cut down last week, but Mr. Gruszka said they weren't removed to make way for it.

"It was just fortuitous those two happened to coincide," he said.

He expects to plant London plane trees around the restaurant next year.

Ninety-three new London planes have been planted along the sidewalks on the eastern and western edges of the plaza. They are serviced by an underground irrigation system within a porous gravel-soil mixture designed to promote root growth and longevity. Mr. Gruszka said they could live for up to 350 years.

At Mr. Gruszka's request, Carnegie Museum of Natural History botanist Dr. Cynthia Morton examined the genetic makeup of each of the plaza's trees. Because the new trees, grown in Oregon and purchased from nurseries in Butler and New Jersey, are not as genetically diverse and therefore not as disease-resistant as the older ones, Mr. Gruszka has had cuttings taken from the older trees with the greatest genetic diversity and is having them propagated. They could prove to be a better cultivar than the newly planted trees, a variety named Bloodgood.

London plane trees were developed in England or Western Europe in the 1600s as a natural cross between the American sycamore and the Oriental plane tree. Because they are fast-growing, withstand pollution and thrive in a variety of soil conditions, the trees have been widely cultivated and planted in cities and towns.

London planes can reach heights of 70 to 100 feet; Mr. Gruszka estimates those in the plaza are 50 to 60 feet tall. It should take the new trees about 10 years to reach a height of 35 feet, and another 20 years to equal or exceed the height of the older trees.

Elsewhere on the plaza, the carousel will be installed in a few weeks, as will a large, seasonal, earth-toned tent which will provide shelter and shade. Four food kiosks on the plaza will serve hot dogs, bagels, Asian food and pizza and Italian food. A fifth structure, the maintenance building, will house a 24-hour security guard; its fence will enclose the plaza's moveable tables and chairs, to be delivered next month.

The new Schenley Plaza is expected to open in early May, and wireless Internet access should be available by the ceremonial opening June 8.

The Evolution of Schenley Plaza is the title of a panel discussion to be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Room 125 of Pitt's Frick Fine Arts Building. Participants include Meg Cheever, president of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy; Maureen Hogan, former assistant director of the Pittsburgh city Planning Department; Andrew J. Schwartz, managing principal of Environmental Planning & Design, the project's construction manager; and Susannah Ross, of the Sasaki Associates design team.

The free event is co-sponsored by Chatham College's Interior Architecture and Landscape Architecture programs and the University of Pittsburgh's Department of History of Art and Architecture.

(Patricia Lowry can be reached at or 412-263-1590.)

Anonymous said...

Rotting? Phil's brain is rotting. What an assw&ole - - that jerk is looking at the BARK! What an IDIOT....fine him at least $1,500,000. and 10 years of citizen tree pruner service and teaching about trees to 4th graders.

Barbara Hobens Feldt
Citizen Tree Pruner (NJ)

Anonymous said...

From an email:

Barbara Jo
I have no idea how to blog but there is mis information out there
There was an article in the Sunday Post Gazette talking about this THE
TREES WERE HOLLOW!!!!!! They needed to be removed If the professors
had walked over to the trees they would have seen they were hollow and a
danger to anyone walking below them Furthermore they planted 70 more
of those junk trees around the exterior of the new park I would not
plant a sycamore anywhere I hate them They are JUNK and TRASHY
Please send this to whoever Also It was not PITT it was the Parks
Conservasncy and the city of Pittsburgh that made the CORRECT decisions
We are not tree Nazis or tree killers at Pitt