By Sabina Mollot
Last Tuesday afternoon, a Stuyvesant Town resident walking past 440 and 430 East 20th Street said she noticed that a very tall, mature tree was in the midst of being cut down.
The resident, who asked that her name not be published, told Town & Village she’d asked a nearby Public Safety officer what was going on and was initially told that the tree was just being trimmed for safety reasons.
She was also told it had to do with the tree being in the way of a ramp for disabled residents that was going to
be built alongside the building.
The building already has a ramp but according to the officer, that one wasn’t up to code.
The stump of the tree was later removed as well.
The resident added that after she stuck around a while, it became clear that the tree was actually being cut down, so she headed over to the new management office to make a complaint about what seemed like unnecessary arborcide as well as the lack of notice that a tree would be coming down.
That’s when she said she was told by a property manager that the tree was actually diseased.
She didn’t get a response as to the lack of notice though other than management tends to get overwhelmed due to all the work going on at the property at any given time.
After returning later in the day to the spot where the tree had been, the stump that had been there briefly after it was chopped was also gone.
A spokesperson for CWCapital did not respond to a request for comment on the tree.
On Tuesday around midday, workers began to cut down trees, specifically every other shade tree surrounding the interior walkway around the Oval, to the horror of some residents passing by.
The resident who snapped this photo reported, “This removed half the shaded areas covering many of the benches used by the tenants. These trees were planted a number of years ago when the tree service organization cut down all 40 of the original, mature and healthy, London Plane trees that shaded the same areas. London Plane trees have a life span of over 200 years. It took a number of years to regain the shade provided to the tenant by the current trees. When I asked the individual supervising the tree service personnel why they were removing the trees his only answer was ‘We were told to.’ It will take many more years for the trees that now remain to grow and possibly provide shade to the benches that the tenants currently utilize.”
This move follows work last month to remove much of the plantings around the Oval, that CW spokesperson Brian Moriarty said was part of ongoing landscaping around the entire property.
Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, meanwhile, said she hoped the area would be replanted soon.
“When Tishman Speyer cut down many mature trees several years ago, we were assured they did so because the trees were beetle-infested or dying (whether one believes it or not is another story),” she said. “I would hope that is the case now rather than a sheer landscaping decision. Some of the trees in our community must be more than 65 years old and are treasures. Moreover, they have taken out what was an absolutely beautiful and lush arrangement of plants and bushes around the perimeter of the Oval, leaving us with barren earth. If they don’t plan on replanting the area with an arrangement equally breathtaking, shame on them.”
A spokesperson for CWCapital did not respond to a request for an explanation by T&V’s print deadline on Wednesday.
However, on Friday afternoon, in one of CompassRock’s emailed newsletters, management discussed the ongoing landscaping work. One of the goals, apparently, is to remove trees that are “overgrown” as well to correct landscaping work done during Tishman Speyer’s ownership which eventually resulted in hundreds of newly planted trees dying or having to be removed from the grounds.
On the recent work in Oval crescent-shaped flowerbeds, in which plantings were stripped, CompassRock said, “This work is part of a property-wide landscaping stabilization program currently in progress, with the goal of establishing a landscape environment which will thrive for years to come. This requires the correction of programs undertaken by prior ownership, which did not ensure adequate care or space for plants to grow, including many instances of tree, shrub and flower plantings in inappropriate soil and sunlight conditions.”
Management also said the landscaping renovation includes “the transplant of trees and shrubs to other locations in the property; removal of several overgrown trees and plants; remediation of the soil; and improvements to the existing irrigation and electrical infrastructure embedded in the crescents. The new tree species being planted in the crescent beds will be lower in height and density, allowing the trees the space they need to prosper, as well as increasing visibility into the Oval for both passers-by and security. When completed, the gardens will have a cleaner look and a new, lush ground with perennials to add color. The final plantings will be completed in the coming three weeks and new fencing will be established to protect the area and keep it healthy.”