Downtown trees are disappearing -- and often in a shady way.
An estimated 200 trees have vanished -- some mysteriously murdered -- in Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, and other areas under Community Board 2, leaders say, according to the New York Post.
The missing limbs have left leaf-lorn neighborhoods pocked with muddy, litter-strewn craters and ugly stumps.
"Oh, what happened to that tree? It's something that happens when you're not looking," said Liz Walker, owner of Local café on Sullivan Street, where several trees have gone missing.
While the city forges ahead with its ambitious "Million Trees NYC" planting project, it gives less priority to replacing trees destroyed by delivery trucks, contractors, vandals, and people who simply ax them.
"The city is so desperate to reach their quota, they plant where there's a space, and rarely inform the community," said Geoffrey Croft, founder of New York City Park Advocates, which monitors arboreal abuse.
"Sometimes, people do not like trees, and take matters into their own hands."
When three trees disappeared outside Da Gennaro restaurant at 129 Mulberry St. about 18 months ago, some suspected they were whacked -- possibly to clear space for sidewalk dining.
"I'm outraged, but welcome to Little Italy," one resident fumed.
"With the city pushing to plant trees to help improve the quality of air, and just to make it look nice and pretty, the merchants are cutting down trees here."
Aki Gholizadeh, Da Gennaro's owner, insisted the Parks Department chopped down the trees, calling them a "hazard."
But Parks officials said they removed only two dying trees -- and left a healthy one.
"We were never able to establish what happened to that third tree," said Liam Kavanagh, first deputy commissioner. "There is an allegation that somebody removed it illegally, but we weren't able to substantiate it."
The Parks Department plants or replaces trees requested by callers to 311, but it can take up to a year.