Parsippany Can’t Afford to Lose More Forest

PARSIPPANY — Green space is important for mental health, air quality, and property values. According to the Smithsonian Institute, “tree cover is one of the most visible indicators of neighborhood income, and vegetation density is directly tied to health outcomes, especially for vulnerable group[s], such as kids, the elderly and people living below the poverty line. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that trees save 850 lives and deflect 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms each year,” and a study in Portland, OR found that over 14% of air pollutants are improved by neighborhood trees.

And yet, Parsippany is threatening to take away more of the town’s dwindling green space. The administration is moving forward on a proposal to sell the land to a developer, who plans to construct a 155 unit senior living center. This plan will line the pockets of developers while burdening our town with the negative externalities, none of which they will pay for.

This project would increase the impervious surface cover and artificial landscaping, which means more flooding and higher chances of algal blooms like the one that devastated Lake Hopatcong last summer from fertilizers and runoff. These are issues that will only become more frequent and more intense because of climate change, especially in the event of hurricanes as intense as Irma and Sandy.

In addition, clear-cutting this land would have devastating impacts on our wildlife. We have already taken away so much of their land that soon they will have nowhere to go. Further decreasing their habitat will mean more deer-auto collisions and more bears, racoons and skunks in our backyards/trash. Projects like these further threaten the 52 endangered species and 33 threatened species in NJ, including bobcats, Indiana bats, and several hawk, owl, sparrow, salamander, bat, and insect species who depend on forests like this one.

Trees and forest floors are carbon sinks, and clear-cutting them releases that carbon. All of these “little” projects around the world add up—this is one of the reasons why we are experiencing climate change. Even when forests are replanted, it can take hundreds of years for them to restore their original richness, biodiversity, and carbon absorption.

We already lost a huge area of tree cover from Waterview Marketplace—we can’t afford to take more trees away. Many countries including China, Ireland, and Ethiopia and cities like New York and Toronto have declared or already met tree-planting targets. We are in a climate crisis, and Parsippany should operate accordingly. New Jersey has already seen a higher temperature increase than other parts of the nation, and that will only continue if we stay on this path of overdevelopment.

We don’t want Parsippany to be built-out. I urge you to call on our town zoning board officials to deny permits for the senior center development project by calling, emailing, and attending the zoning board meeting on Wednesday, January 15 at 7:00 p.m. in Town Hall, 1001 Parsippany Boulevard. Not only should Parsippany deny this proposal, the town should take steps to preserve the land through a land trust, conservation easement, or other measure.

This article was prepared by Allie Molinaro