Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Dying Trees

“There are two locations where the trees have been planted and replanted three times, and they’ve died all three times," said Cathryn Swan who has sounded the alarm in Washington Sq. Park.

NBC New York has discovered that a number of trees planted in city parks are dying, resulting in a poor landscape and wasted taxpayer dollars.
A number of trees planted in Queens Plaza Streetscape and in Washington Square Park have either died or are dying - resulting in a poor landscape and wasted taxpayer dollars. In Queens contractors working for EDC are nearly finished with a $46 million traffic redesign project, but 20 dead trees (above) have plagued the scenery. Eight trees have died in Washington Square Park over the last two years as part of a $30 million park renovation ushered in by the Bloomberg administration. Critics charge the trees were planted incorrectly and point to a lack oversight and bureaucracy.


When visitors go to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, they often lounge next to the famous fountain or admire the Washington Square Arch sitting at the south end of Fifth Avenue. What they may not notice just a few yards away from that renowned arch are the crispy brown leaves atop a dead tree, according to NBC News.

The sickly tree is one of eight that have died in the last two years. All of the doomed arbors were planted as part of a $30 million park renovation championed by the Bloomberg administration.

"The Parks Department is knowingly committing arborcide,” said Cathryn Swan, a neighbor who has been posting pictures of the dead trees on her website, the Washington Square Park Blog.

“There are two locations where the trees have been planted and replanted three times, and they’ve died all three times," Swan said. "I’m worried they’re going to plant those trees a fourth time. I just feel like it ends up being sort of heartbreaking.”

The New York City Parks Department said in a statement that it has experienced a series of "failed plantings" for the Zelkova trees in the area around the park plaza.

"We are investigating potential causes of why trees are not surviving here and will conduct soil tests, examine the drainage, and determine if there is a problem with this particular species," the statement said.

Professional arborist Ralph Padilla (left) diagnosed the planting problem as relatively simple. "It was planted incorrectly," he said after examining the dead tree near the arch. "It was planted too deep."

“The giveaway is that all trees, before they enter the soil flare out slightly at the base,” he added.

The dead tree near the arch does not flare out at all, Padilla said. He said it was possible that private contractors or parks personnel repeated the mistake by burying the root balls of eight trees too far beneath the soil, suppressing oxygen supply. When roots are submerged too deeply, recent transplants can die.

Meanwhile, just over the East River, withered wood is being plucked from another green space. At the Queens Plaza Streetscape, contractors are nearly finished with a $46 million traffic redesign project, but 20 dead trees have plagued the scenery.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation, which manages the project, says the trees are under warranty and will be replaced free of charge. However, because city rules only allow planting during certain seasonal windows, that part of the project is stalled.


Washington Square Park - Northern End. "With all the talk about “MillionTreesNYC” in our city, one blogger wrote on the Washington Square Park Blog, it’s really “OneMillionDeadTrees”. Another p.r. ruse put forth by our Mayor — the plan lacks any built-in initiative to maintain the “million” trees planted on neighborhood streets." (Photo: Courtesy: Washington Square Park Blog)

A Parks Department source told NBC New York six of the eight dead trees in Washington Square Park are under warranty, so the replacement cost will be just $3,000.

Still, critics say time is money. Cathryn Swan blames poor oversight and bureaucracy for the bungled plantings. Each time a tree fails to take root, contractors must wait for the next seasonal window to re-plant. Already, the Washington Square Park renovation has lasted nearly four years. The phase of the project that includes the dead trees was supposed to be wrapped up by 2009.

“People talk about bureaucracy and city government. You want to believe there are people who will step in and stop the bureaucracy sometimes, but with something like this it is clear that is not happening,” Swan said.

Read More:

Village Residents Fume Over Dead Trees

NBC News - September 21, 2011 - By Chris Glorioso

A Walk In The Park - August 25, 2011

1 comment:

  1. Nice reporting here. Glad to see folks like this blog are chiming in on tree matters. But many are really still sleeping. I mean trees are all around us and no one has noticed the abuse and neglect over past years. And while no one was looking, scores of large irreplaceable shade trees in parklands and as street trees have been hammered and continue to be hammered by contractors and their heavy equipment approved and authorized by the City. All in a meld of blatant indifference and arrogance. Some folks point to malfeasance- government workers simply not doing their job and ignoring the contract spec all in the name of profits for the contractors.

    And though we now see young dead trees in large numbers in former construction sites like Washington Sq Park, Queens Boro Plaza and dozens of other projects around town, did any one observed the criminal abuse to the existing trees within those construction sites? Yes, the established (and historic) trees from which we already acquire those oh so vital benefits, like shade and control of storm water runoff. Can’t do that with tree roots torn out. No one noticed blatant violations of the NYC administrative code on the unlawful destruction of public trees by those very contractors. Wasn’t there a law suit at WSP for an environmental impact study that would have protected these existing trees?

    Keep an eye on those trees at WSP and QBP over the next few years for declining performance. But by then most folks will have forgotten what had happened at these former construction sites.