Interview with Project Landscape Architect Kathleen Dahill

Interview with Project Landscape Architect Kathleen Dahill 01-30-20

Although we may be deep in the heart of winter, the time is upon us to begin planning landscaping aesthetics of the areas in the immediate vicinity of the LIRR Expansion Project. One of the project goals is to improve the landscaping and visual elements of the areas where construction will be completed, especially stations. For example, as part of the Merillon Avenue Station Enhancement Project there will be new landscaping and vegetation featuring native ornamental shrubbery; west of the station platform, a row of mature pine trees is being preserved throughout construction, a commitment the Expansion Project made to the community during the planning process.

AModernLI chatted with Design-Build Contractor 3rd Track Constructor’s Landscape Architect, Kathleen Dahill, the LIRR Expansion Project’s go-to expert for all topics pertaining to plants and landscaping. She helped us dig up some intel on how and why we make certain project landscape choices.

AModernLI (AMLI): Tell us a little about yourself.
Kathleen Dahill (KD): I’ve been a landscape architect since 1999, and I’ve been working at Stantec, the design contractor for the Project, for almost 15 of those years. My specialty is tree protection and planting along transportation corridors.

AMLI: What does your work on the project involve?
KD: With support of the Project’s public outreach team, we spend a lot of time collaborating with representatives from neighboring communities to come up with plans for future landscaping that fits the aesthetics of each village and town. We then research, design, reiterate, reiterate some more and, when the time for planting comes, we work as a team to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Interview with Project Landscape Architect Kathleen Dahill 01-30-20

AMLI: Good to know it’s such a collaborative process. What takes priority when choosing certain plants for the design?
KD: We aim to provide clusters of native plants to create a rhythm of sizes and textures, seasonal color and interest, all while providing low maintenance, durable and sustainable landscaping. Our team is also making an effort to replace street trees that have been removed. In many cases we are replacing (with similar species, for example), the majestic oaks and maple trees that have thrived in the area.

AMLI: Seems like a lot of thought goes into choosing the right species. What do we stay away from?
KD: Anything with fruits, berries or seeds in high pedestrian areas or parking lots.

AMLI: Sorry, kids. Why is that?
KD: After talking with multiple communities’ Departments of Public Works (DPW), the conversations deepened our sensitivity to maintenance issues, like berries falling on sidewalks – they make a mess!

AMLI: What species do you typically like to use?
KD: Eastern Redbuds is a good example. They’re small trees native to eastern North America. They bear beautiful pink flowers in early spring, and their leaves are colorful throughout the rest of the year. With a hardy adaptability, the trees can survive in a range of site conditions, soil types and sun exposure levels – perfect for us here on Long Island!

AMLI: What site is getting these Redbuds?
KD: We’ll add a few Redbuds at the Intermodal Plaza in Mineola, specifically by the station house area. Since the space is tight, we’re looking to place tree grates, instead of plant beds. Unfortunately, the cedar trees at the station house will be removed, as they’re in poor health, but one cherry tree will remain.

AMLI: Any other trees?
KD: We’re looking into the Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac. As the name suggests, they’re not native, but currently present in Mineola, so we’re considering continuing that theme. We’re working to hear the community’s feedback on this idea.
Unfortunately, the new trees at the station house will not be planted for multiple reasons. But the good news is that the MTA Arts & Design and LIRR have selected Mineola Station for a sculpture to be installed within the plaza area south of the station building.

AMLI: Sounds pretty! What other landscaping projects do we have going on in the project corridor?
KD: We’ve been working with the Village of Westbury to develop a landscaping plan, and I’ve reviewed the Westbury Downtown Revitalization Initiative report to make sure we’re consistent with the Village’s goals and intentions. Since there’s a lot of wall construction along the LIRR right-of-way as part of the project, we’re thinking of planting a combination of evergreen trees, shade and ornamental trees, and shrub masses, to create a natural barrier between the walls and the community. This will provide rhythmic patterns, seasonal interest and sustainability of plant materials along the wall corridors.

The construction of a third track from Floral Park to Hicksville will reduce train congestion and delays and enable true bi-directional service during peak hours with a more reliable rail network. This transformative work includes several related projects, including accessibility improvements, the removal of eight street-level grade crossings, the construction of parking garages, the installation of retaining and sound walls and improvements to rail bridges. Construction is being managed to minimize the impact on daily routines, with extensive mitigation and public outreach efforts in local communities. For more information please visit the LIRR Expansion Project Floral Park to Hicksville project page on AModernLI.com.