Bat save! State axes G’point trees to spare critters ahead of bridge overhaul

Bat save! State axes G’point trees to spare critters ahead of bridge overhaul
Creative Commons / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

The state is looking bat to the future.

State workers cut down 53 trees on Monday to make way for the massive, $1-billion rebuilding of the Kosciuszko Bridge — and to spare the Northern long-eared bats that might roost in the trees later in the year. The breed is an endangered species.

“It is important to be environmentally responsible during all of our construction projects, especially when dealing with endangered species,” state transportation department commissioner Joan McDonald said in a statement. “Removing the trees prior to nesting season will allow the bats to find safe, secure locations through the year while ensuring that the contractor selected for the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project will not need to delay construction on this critical infrastructure project.”

The Northern long-eared bat is a tiny mammal — adults grow to 3.7 inches max — with habitat on the East Coast from North Carolina to Maine. Colonies with young bats range in size from 30 to 60 bats. During the winter, the bats hibernate in caves and mines and, when the weather warms, they set up camp in trees. Federal regulations require agencies within the bat’s turf to cut down trees before April 1 to protect the winged creatures from being liquidated in the logging.

The felled trees stood on Cherry Street and Vandervoort Avenue near the bridge, and on Meeker Avenue between Kingsland Avenue and Varick Street. Crews also removed 93 trees on the Queens side of the bridge.

The state is supposed to start construction this fall on the bridge, which carries Brooklyn-Queens Expressway commuters over Newtown Creek from Greenpoint to Queens. State engineers say that their plan to replace the entire bridge will take until 2018, meaning they have pushed it back a year since the summer of 2013. During construction, the Brooklyn side of the bridge, including Doughtery Park, is slated to become a way station for construction gear.

Roads officials promised to replant twice as many trees as they chopped down when the project is complete.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.