December 5, 2017 / Brooklyn news / Fort Greene / Meadows of Shame

Prime cuts: Parks department will fell dozens of healthy trees in Ft. Greene Park makeover

Getting to the root of it: Some residents accused city officials of misleading locals when they said that certain trees in an area of Fort Greene Park that the parks department plans to redesign are old and dying, citing an agency report that describes most of the green things as actually young and in fine health.
Brooklyn Paper
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It’s tree-son!

City officials fibbed to advance their controversial redesign for a section of Fort Greene Park when they claimed that dozens of meadow trees destined for the hatchet are sick and near-death, because most of the green things are actually young and in prime health, according to some locals who cited a report from city-hired arborists.

“It indicates that, contrary to what our people were told along the way, poor health of trees was a very minor issue,” said Michael Gruen, an attorney representing Friends of Fort Greene Park, a group that opposes the makeover.The Landmarks Preservation Commission green-lit the polarizing changes last month following the project’s September approval by Community Board 2, which cleared the way for the Department of Parks and Recreation to break ground on it in 2019.

The agency, as part of its “Parks Without Borders Program,” plans to make Fort Greene Park’s entry at Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street more welcoming to pedestrians by turning it into a grand corner entrance that leads to the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, which requires leveling some hilly mounds, creating a paved walkway to the memorial, and chopping down trees.

Parks department honchos told locals during the several-month planning process that the green things chosen for removal wouldn’t survive for much longer. But the agency’s forestry report — a survey of all 129 trees currently growing where the redesign would occur that Friends of Fort Greene Park received via a Freedom of Information Act request and shared with this newspaper — shows that many of the trees deemed old and ill were anything but, according to Gruen.

“They were told that approximately 50 trees were sick or bad in age, would die within a few years, and had to be removed,” the lawyer said. “Removing these trees had nothing to do with their health or age.”

Officials plan to axe 49 of the 129 trees in that corner of the park, 26 of which are large Norway maples — green things classified as invasive by the city, which added the species to its “do not plant list” in 2006 — according to information from the report and parks department.

Foresters initially pegged the maples as young and healthy after a visual assessment of their condition and size, according to a parks department spokeswoman, who said the agency later learned the trees were likely added in the early 1970s when they were between five and 10-years-old and claimed they are “certainly not young trees.”

But a 10-year-old Norway maple planted in 1970 would be 57, which is only one third of the species’ total lifespan, according to information from a State University of New York college.

The agency will also cut down around 23 non-maple trees in the area — including some London planes, honey locusts, and zelkovas — only nine of which are sick, according to the forestry report. The rest, including all nine honey locusts currently standing at the corner being made over, are being felled to accommodate the new design, the document says.

Workers will replace most of the uprooted green things with saplings from the much smaller caliper species, which is about three-to-five inches in diameter as opposed to the Norway maple’s heftier 10-to-13 inch girth, the parks-department spokeswoman said.

Friends of Fort Greene Park members hired an independent arborist from Glaeser Horticultural Consulting to review the vitality of the to-be-felled trees, and that investigation showed the green things are young and in good health, though it did note that a handful of maple trees suffer from minor root problems that could be corrected without cutting them down.

Residents’ outcry over the trees getting the axe led some top city officials to question the plan, with one demanding the Landmarks Preservation Commission rescind its approval of the makeover until the city truly reviews the environmental impacts of removing the green things and other aspects of the redesign, including leveling the grassy mounds and covering absorbent grass with a paved walkway.

“I believe that the city has not done its due process, and that the redesign dulls the environmentally resilient features that the park currently provides, such as mitigating storm water runoff,” Public Advocate Letitia James penned in a Nov. 27 letter to the commission. “The city has not done the proper environmental review.”

James fired off the letter hoping it would prompt the landmarks agency to reconsider its vote, according to a spokesperson. Her missive followed a similar request for a supplemental environmental study that Gruen made ahead of the commission’s vote, which the preservationists did not act on.

But the city does not need the landmarks agency’s approval to conduct a supplementary environmental review, according to a rep, who did not comment on whether the commission would consider rescinding its vote.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:52 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Roberto Vélez from Boerum Hill says:
Is it just me or is it really weird that the paper keeps on calling the trees “green things”? What’re they, stalks of broccoli? It also seems like the paper is twisting the numbers on the trees. 23 being removed are by their admission invasive species and 9 of the others are in poor condition, leaving 14 healthy trees being cut down to create an ADA accessible plaza in an area with pedestrian-unfriendly mounds that see little use outside of a couple events a year, despite the paper’s supposition otherwise. Hardly felling dozens of healthy trees as the paper’s title claims.
Dec. 5, 2017, 10:06 am
K. from ArKady says:
Uhhh... it's close to 40% of the total tree cover in the park.It ain't easy being green.
Dec. 5, 2017, 3:29 pm
Jordan from Brooklyn Heights says:
Sounds wasteful
Dec. 5, 2017, 4:50 pm
Gilbert from Bed Stuy says:
If the Norway maples really were invasive in the park there would be dozens if not hundreds maples not just 26. The Parks Dept is lying about the trees just like it has been lying all along about this wasteful, unwanted stupid plan. We are used to developers cutting down healthy trees to build their crap. Now its the PARKS DEPARTMENT CUTTING HEALTHY TREES they are charged with safeguarding.
Dec. 5, 2017, 6:20 pm
John from Sunset Park says:
This reminds me of Janet Reno who said David Koresh was molesting children so she had all the children burned to death.

Now the trees are dead? The trees look ok to me.
Dec. 5, 2017, 6:21 pm
Parks In Charge of Mass Tree Murder? from Myrtle Ave Environs says:
Cut down mature healthy shade trees for a cement corridor...?

Is it appropriate to have a bazaar lining the "highway" to the monument as shown in one of the Parks Dept redesign sketches suggesting commercialization will be a part of the 'new' Park corner!?

Or an entertainment center -if the point is to respect those buried at the Monument with what Parks insists should be an "unobstructed view"?

See what residents and park users video'ed really want at this website link:
Dec. 5, 2017, 9:21 pm
Tree-hugger, not mugger from Fort Greene says:
In fact there are 54 trees being removed, not the 40 as the community was repeatedly told and they are not at the end of their life cycle what-so-ever! No need to cut down 54 trees to make an ADA ramp by the existing stairs. The people on Myrtle Avenue are still waiting for the invasion of the 50 year old Norway Maples. An independent arborist who evaluated the trees said that even the few with some problems will be fine with knowledgeable care. The restitution for the trees will cost taxpayers at least $1 million. All this is the vanity project of the Park Commissioner, Mitchell Silver. Get the foxes out of the hen house please!
Dec. 5, 2017, 10:12 pm
Frances from Bed Stuy says:
What does the Landmarks Committee know or care about trees? Aren't they concerned about scoring the ravishment of old buildings by randy developers? They probably don't know a honey locust from a honey pot.
Dec. 5, 2017, 11:48 pm
Tree Hugger, not mugger from Fort Greene says:
Park Dept contractors with chain saws are the only invaders at this park. So much for sustainable NYC.
Dec. 6, 2017, 12:27 am
Pay heed to the community from Fort Greene Park says:
Hard to believe developer Red Apple Group/Catsimatidis who developed the fancy-pants several luxury new high rises next to the proposed 'redesign' will be happy with a sanitized corridor -empty of lush mature shade trees. Would he think that his new tenants would rather see cement than greenery?

Perhaps Mr Catismatidis should talk to MARP which coincidentally Red Apple helps to well as Mayor deBlasio to whom he gave beaucoups political bucks?

Parks Dept and Commissioner Silver need to be checked-their dictatorship has not played well in Fort Greene.
Dec. 6, 2017, 9:15 am
Ana from Fort Greene says:
What a bunch of curmudgeons in the comments. As the last person said in the NY Post article, it'll make the park more attractive and inviting. And the majority of the community was in favor of it at the meetings I went to. But I guess it's like they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease...
Dec. 6, 2017, 10:39 am
Tree-Hugger, not Mugger from Fort Greene says:
Because there is nothing more attractive than the removal of 54 mature shade trees (40-60 feet tall) that provide shade, filter dirty air, reduce asthma, create homes for many species, reduce run off, help reduce the urban heat island and being replaced by a 45 foot hardscape plaza fit for commercial venders and lots of rain run off. And the extreme pruning the Park plans to do is likely to kill the large plane trees in the center leading up to the steps. Proud to be a curmudgeon working to reduce global warming and maintain a habitable space for people and animals. Nobody is opposed to the Parks Dept doing their job and repairing dilapidated walkways and sidewalks that they have ignored for decades. They have ignored their job of maintenance for years.
Dec. 6, 2017, 11:39 am
squeaky wheel from Fort Greene says:
Hi Ana,

"The majority of the community"? How come people who live next to Myrtle and St. Edwards corner tell a different story at the park in these videos?

We are squeaking because NYC Parks plans to crush trees and greenery with a massive cement plaza--wider than the Central Park Mall.

More than 500 neighbors signed a petition opposing the Parks plan. Could you tell us where to find your majority of 501 people who actually use the corner and are "in favor of it"? We are very eager to sit down and talk with them.
Dec. 6, 2017, 12:06 pm
BoFiS from Ditmas Park says:
Not my park, but it's a beautiful park with lovely, mature trees, why couldn't they work around them instead? Seems like a poor design, and really sad decision to ever cut down healthy trees in the city...
Dec. 6, 2017, 2:07 pm
Joe from Fort Greene says:
This is just Parks Without Borders doing the bidding, at the Mayor's behest, of developers who want to sell condos near that entrance; plus it's part of a misguided effort to insert more vendors into City parks to "monetize" every public space in sight. The original designers of the park would be aghast. Watch: that enormous sterile plaza will be overrun with vendors in no time flat. Goodbye lovely healthy trees, hello junky merchandise that has no place in a public park. The DeBlasio administration should be ashamed of itself for promoting this gift to its donors at the expense of a beautiful natural environment.
Dec. 8, 2017, 7:35 pm

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