Fifty years ago this week, trees were in the local headlines for a different reason: their removal. Crews with the city's Parkway Commission began removing oak trees from a stretch of N. Claiborne Avenue to make room for the Interstate 10 elevated expressway. According to a Feb. 10, 1966 article in The Times-Picayune, some of the trees removed from Claiborne Avenue were transplanted on Orleans Avenue.
The expressway was controversial from the start because of its location above the tree-lined corridor that was the heart of Treme and other nearby neighborhoods. Longtime residents say the area never was the same when concrete replaced the tree-lined neutral ground. Despite protests from the mostly African-American residents of the area, the 2-mile stretch of the expressway, from Elysian Fields Avenue to the Pontchartrain Expressway, was completed in December 1972. Recently, in both city-funded master plans and nonprofit studies, there have been calls to tear down the expressway over N. Claiborne Avenue, or at the very least remove some of the on- and off-ramps, in hopes of revitalizing the neighborhood.