Monday, November 5, 2012

A Queens Community Loses A Beloved Park's Namesake & Much More

A Grove No Longer. Trees that once provided much needed shade for a park in Long Island City were knocked down by Hurricane Sandy.  Andrews Grove or Andrews Playground is known by the name given to it by neighborhood residents, "shady park."  The City has lost tens of thousands of trees due to the hurricane. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on Images to enlarge

Andrews Grove
Andrews Groove before Hurricane Sandy.  (Photo: NYC Parks)


By Geoffrey Croft

"Are you seeing what I'm seeing," exclaimed 8-year-old Joshua to his friends hanging on a fence.   "Look what happened to our playground."

Over the last few days hundreds of people young and old alike have arrived at a beloved playground and have made a startling discovery. They have looked on in disbelief through a wrought iron fence, heartbroken at what they've seen.

They stare, take pictures, and share memories.  Many have come multiple times.  

Large Linden trees now cover most of the playground,  they were blown down by the violent winds of Hurricane Sandy. Some trees are propped up by play equipment. 

These fallen freinds have created a palpable loss in the community. 

The 2.5 acre park, known by neighborhood residents not by its official name, Andrews Grove,  or Andrews Playground but instead by its function, "shady park."

"The shade was one of the main reasons why people came, " said Nadia Keshodkar with her 21 month old son Eli and her husband.

"Other parks in the neighborhood got wet but the water receded quickly. These trees are gone forever. It's really sad. We were very lucky compared to other areas but this is heartbreaking."

Mrs. Keshodkar said the trees provided much needed relief from the heat during the summer.  She said her son played there every day and counts the swings, slides and sprinklers as his favorite activities. 

The park - located on 49th Avenue between Vernon Blvd & 5th Street - sits mid-block nestled between two-story homes, right behind the 108th Police Pct.

Until Hurricane Sandy tree canopy covered most of the playground with a sliver of open sky exposed on the West end. 

"It's really shocking," said Mami Uchida photographed with her 4-year-old daughter Sakura looking at the damage. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on Images to enlarge

According to several witnesses the trees did not fall all at once.

One large tree fell and many hours later the others.

People said they were surprised when they returned to see a half dozen trees down and covering the park

"When I left work only one was down," an officer at the adjacent 108th Pct.  said while surveying the damage.

"It looks really bad."

All of the parents spoke of the relief the playground provided in the stifling heat. Many spoke of the extreme temperature contrast between this small oasis and the much larger and newer Gantry Plaza State Park along the waterfront, including its playgrounds, a short walk away. 

This playground has been a fixture in the community since it's original opening in 1932 and subsequent enlargement in 1951.

It contains sprinklers, two sets of playground equipment, swings, benches and at least partly because of its shade the playground has been a focal point for countless families in the community.

"It's really sad," said Shirin Ordower outside the park with her 8-month-old boy and husband Rick.

"We called it shady Park. The whole neighborhood did.  The trees were a part of the park." 

"The trees provided a canopy,"  said Rick an electrical engineer. "It really made a difference."

The loss has inspired the creation of a facebook page and Friends of Shady Park, a community group "working to restore this place beloved in our neighborhood."

"The park was the only one in Long Island City that provided a respite from the hot and sunny summer days," commented a person on LICTALK, a local blog which also posted video of the damage.

"it's special-ness was entirely the trees.," wrote another on a blog.   "It was part of our lives and our families and our hearts and for now it has left a discernible hole in the place we call home."

"It's really shocking,"  said Mami Uchida, 39, taking photos yesterday while her 4-year-old daughter Sakura peered through the fence.

"Hurricanes are beyond my way of thinking, " added the native of Japan who moved to New York City eleven years ago. 

"Natural power did this. It makes me think we have to prepare for the future. We have to."  

For the Zimmerman family the park's loss has an added significance.

Adam Zimmerman said his two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with mild autism six months ago and they rely heavily on the shaded playground for her development.

"Her ADA therapist takes her to the playground daily," said Mr. Zimmerman who's in construction and lives next door to the playground with his wife and two kids.

"She learned a lot of coordination in the park. She's definitely been made more aware of things in her surroundings -  trees and squirrels in that park. She learned to interact with other kids.  And I know for a fact that there are a lot of other kids with learning disabilities who spend quite a bit of time there. 

As much as her just walking up the stairs by herself and going down the slide and that giving her confidence," he added.

"It's definitely a big loss for our family among other families."

He said his wife Liz's family have been in the community for more than a hundred years. His mother in-law's father worked on the nearby gantries (Now Gantry Plaza State Park) for the railroad.  

"We're not going anywhere.

Everybody who has children spends the whole day in that park. It's definitely a sad state of affairs. It's completely decimated. 

He said there are other parks in area but they to not offer the same kind of protection.

"There' s a beautiful park down at Gantry Plaza but it wasn't  made correctly. In the summer time you can't spend more than an hour there - if you can get away with that long because the sun just burns the kids skin. Kids are going to wind up getting heat stroke in that environment. 

This park was fondly named shady park because it was fully shaded.  There was basically no sun in the summer and people were able to spend the whole day there with their families. It's definitely a good thing to have the shade especially in the summer so you can cool down and stay out of the sun.

That was the escape."

Neighborhood residents have been arriving in large numbers to see the damage caused by the hurricane to a much beloved playground. 

Read More:

Lack Of Park Personnel Cited In Parks Still Closed After Hurricane Sandy
A Walk In The Park - November 24,  2012 - By Geoffrey Croft 

'Shady Park' Neighbors Vie for Tall Trees to Replace Those Upended by Sandy 
DNAinfo - November 16,  2012 - By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska 

A Walk In The Park - November 3, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - November 1, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - November 1, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - October 31, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - October 31, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - October 30, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - October 29, 2012 


  1. Incredible damages all around and the loss of a vital urban resource. And thank God that no one was injured or killed.

    But clearly these tree losses could have been averted and there is adequate blame to go all around. Established trees simply don't fail because of gale force winds, without some greater underlying problem. A quick look-see of the tree root plate will tell you why.
    Parks Central Forestry & the Capital Construction division tree planting policy choose for their trees to be repeatedly installed in less than optimum growing conditions within the public right of way. That is park projects result in the such severe un-remediated compaction of soils and the installation of new young trees within those soils result in nothing but a restricted tree root system and a tree prone to failure when the right load force is applied.
    And while these tree installations occurred 25-30 years ago the same unacceptable practice by agency landscape architects and engineers remains unchanged to this day. All for the tree planting numbers game.

  2. Those trees were Zelkovas, which are used in bonsai. They have naturally shallow root systems.

  3. And it looks like they've been pruned badly, too -- all of the branches are pointing upward like a lion's tail, with no intermediate branches. Root systems mirror branches; pruning trees like this may be aesthetically pleasing but it leads to instability. What a sad outcome.