Friday, August 10, 2012

Tree Massacre At Queens Borough Hall

"We were on the record as saying the trees would be transplanted and that was the decision at the time," - Queens Borough President spokesperson.

May 1, 2012 - Queens Borough Hall courtyard trees- Here Today Gone Tomorrow. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advovcates)

July 19, 2012 - Broken Promises. Queens Borough Hall courtyard after 24 healthy trees were destroyed to make way for a new $ 17 million atrium being built at the site. After the controversy arose surrounding the destruction of at least nine Cherry trees the Queens Borough President's office said they were going to preserve the remaining trees. They didn't.


By Geoffrey Croft

The City has destroyed the remaining 24 healthy Cheery trees behind Queens Borough Hall after promising to save them, A Walk In The Park has learned.

The original Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) plan called for the destruction of more than 30 trees to make way for a new $ 17 million atrium.

In April the City chopped down at least nine healthy blossoming Cherry trees in a field they planned to use as a staging area for construction. (After the story broke the Bloomberg administration said the trees were diseased but an email from the project's landscape architectural firm disproved that.

However when the news surfaced that the trees were coming down and the story received intense media attention construction was put on hold and the City promised they would save the remaining trees - but that did not happen.

The reason - the cost.

According to the Borough President's office they did not have the funds to first transplant the trees and then maintain them afterwards. The Borough President's office did not say if the Mayor's office was asked to provide funding.

Requests seeking comment from the Mayor's office were not returned.

"We are not going to transplant the trees," said Borough President spokesperson Dan Andrews.

"Work had stopped on the project to try and find the best alternative.

We were informed that transplanting the trees was not eligible as a capital expense. It had to be expense, not capital dollars. Trees can be bought with capital dollars I believe but they can't be transplanted with capital."

According to Mr. Andrews, the estimated cost to transplant ten Cherry trees was $ 120,000. An additional two year maintenance agreement was also required to help ensure the tree's survival.

"Who is going to pay for transplanting the trees when they money was not there. The expense of transplanting the trees was tens or thousands of dollars which would have been a problem for us.

May 1, 2012. Healthy Cherry trees. The one on the right is in its last days of blossoming for the season. As it turns out, forever.

July 19, 2012 - After the destruction.

We took another look at it - the work was stopped on the project, transplanting the trees was becoming a multi-thousand dollar project that we had not anticipated in terms of expense revenue and capital revenue.

The trees had experienced some years of life already as you indicted it was not the season to transplant them." he said.

When asked if they had considered waiting for the dormant season to improve their chances of survival, Mr. Andrews responded, "that would have cost a fortune."

He also said it would have delayed the project.

"The maintenance of the trees was a prohibitive expense, they had to be maintained in a particular manner for two years according to the information we received. A decision was made that in the interest of fairness and making a logical decision that the best thing to do was to replace the trees. So that is what is going to happen.

We were on the record as saying the trees would be transplanted and that was the decision at that time but based on the dozens or so reasons I gave you it seemed that prudence would dictate replacing trees that would obviously last longer.

It didn't make sense, (to save the trees) It was an incredible amount of money that was involved and given the chances of survival (replanting during the growing season time) it didn't in conscience seem fair to spend all that money when we could get brand news trees and in much greater numbers.

We were pretty much ready to go with the transplanting effort but then we heard the number-the dollars that were going to be needed to transplant the trees and to maintain them and then after that we heard that it was not something that is eligible for Capital funding that has to be expense money - we thought that prudence clearly dictated this was not a good way to go that the best way to go for all concerned was to plant new trees and hopefully save a great deal of money at the same time."

The Borough President felt she did what was best," he continued.

"We would have saved them but when that news came in that transplanting was not capital eligible. That was a big surprise."

April 1, 2012. Arborcide. According to the Parks Department it is illegal to damage trees on city property, and violations can be punishable by fines as much as $15, 000 and a year in prison. The public has long complained of a double standard when the city is responsible for tree destruction.

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  1. With all these cherry trees now removed there are a few stately, large canopy oak trees that are still within the project footprint that should be fully protected and preserved, but are not. The oak at the end of the project and one just outside the fence to the east of the project. These trees have enormous wide spreading root systems. Damaged tree roots suffocate and die. The tree dies shortly thereafter.
    And so why is the landscape design firm Project Arborist or even the wise BP and her cohorts not saying anything about these unacceptable practices?

  2. Transplanting mature trees is often used as an excuse. It rarely works and is not worth the effort in terms of energy usage. Far better to require some form of compensatory planting of new trees for future generations, in an appropriate spot.

  3. The removal of the cherry trees is not a good thing.

  4. It is a tragedy that these trees lost their lives to a dome that is to be built in the grounds! These trees were beautiful and brought joy to so many! We need more trees, and these Cherry trees, were healthy and came up green every year after the Winter, no matter how cold the weather was. To say the least they should have been transplanted!

  5. it is... so sad...