Tree stumps line the south end of the playground on Friday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
SPS says removals were for resident safety
By Sabina Mollot
Though it did come with warning, a number of Stuyvesant Town residents were nonetheless unprepared for the moment when trees that were nearly as old and as tall as nearby buildings began getting sawed down and carted away.
The old oaks’ removal was explained by management in an email on Friday (and in a prior email blast) as being necessary due to disease and decay. Additionally, StuyTown Property Services CEO Rick Hayduk added in the Friday email to tenants, they’d be replaced in June by Princeton elms and the remains of the oaks would be mulched. Still, for some residents whose windows overlook Playground 1, the removal of the 18 mature trees around it hit home as hard as the loss of an old friend.
“As I speak I hear a chainsaw cutting down a 70-year-old tree,” Stuart Strong, a resident of 330 First Avenue told Town & Village on Friday. Strong, who was horrified, added, “They’re sturdy as anything. We’re looking at stumps that used to be oak trees. I don’t see any decay. They provide environment and enjoyment.”
The following is an open letter to William T. Castro, Manhattan Borough Commissioner of Parks, from Michael Alcamo, executive director of friends of Stuyvesant Square Park: Alcamo sent the letter a day after an oversized tree fell in Central Park, injuring a woman and her three children.
Dear Commissioner Castro:
We are writing to ask for a review of the tree safety and lighting conditions in Stuyvesant Square Park. Due to the wet weather this spring, and the recent hot, sunny days, trees in the western park are flourishing. We normally view this laudable; however, several trees are now obscuring lamp posts in the western park fountain plaza.
Neighbors have recently remarked how dark the park can be after sunset. With the shorter days approaching, we wish to bring this to your attention and ask for your assistance proactively.
Workers plant a tree on Friday morning in Stuyvesant Town, as part of a project to bring one tree to the property per day in June. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Throughout the month of June, 30 new trees will arrive in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
The “30 Trees in 30 Days” program began on the first of the month, with a new tree being planted each day.
In an official statement, StuyTown Property Services, Blackstone’s management company, said the new arrivals are replacing a significant number of trees on the property that have been lost due to old age, attrition and extreme weather conditions.
Chuck Hartsell, director of landscape and horticulture, mentioned that a major factor was the difficulties of being in an urban environment, as he passed some trees in the complex that he noted were on the decline.
In the Aug. 27 issue of Town & Village, we reported on a Stuyvesant Town resident who’d been struck on the head by a hockey puck that sailed over the fence of a playground behind 250 First Avenue as he sat on a bench. The man, whose name was not published in the story, has since submitted the following open letter to CompassRock about the incident. The letter has been edited for length.
As you are aware, on August 14, I sustained an injury to my head while seated on a bench from a hockey puck flying out of the playground, an incident that could have been prevented had you/CompassRock management taken precautionary steps (i.e. a higher fence) to preempt such a predictable incident.
Due to the fact that hockey is frequently played in the playground in question and that the hockey puck frequently flies out of this playground into the pathway/perimeter surrounding this playground, it was clear that management should have taken steps to devise a viable plan to implement appropriate measures to contain this hockey puck projectile within the confines of the playground that caused me such a serious injury and severe stress from the blow to my head.
In short, this preventable incident has deprived me of my right to a peaceful environment in which I reside and pay my rent.
Most disturbing is that while I exercised good faith by informing you of this ongoing physical danger posed to the safety not only of myself but of other tenants as well as the public you have indifferently allowed hockey games to continue in the playground in question, thereby exposing the elderly, children and others to a potential dangerous situation, which two of the physicians examining my injury indicated could have resulted in death or a catastrophic injury, and obviously still poses this risk.
On Friday morning, the 11th of September, my wife and I exited our building on the M level to find an utterly awful sight: a gutted oak tree. It was one of the two live remaining oaks adjoining the area previously set aside for plant deliveries and the storage of granite blocks — and now, unintended, for a doggie-walk area. One oak now remains. Given its natural and its over-pruned condition, it is a prime candidate for “scientific” removal.
Most of the canopy trees in our area are either oaks or London Plains. The canopy trees are under attack. The attack has come in two distinct forms. The first is nature itself; the second is management and Bartlett Scientific. Each acts perfectly within its own right, and comes, as we should expect, with tons of assurances. Management, I was told by the driver of the Bartlett truck, points out the tree to be cut and Bartlett applies the coup de grace — done scientifically of course!
Over the years, our canopy trees have been pruned scientifically to now resemble those one finds in depictions of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (and Ichabod Crane’s frantic rush to escape the horror of a decapitated Major Andre). The branches of our American plane trees /American sycamore and those of the oak have been so aggressively pruned that they now loom hunched, emaciated with all limbs pointing skyward — the silent victims of decisions and actions done professionally and “in their best interests.”
Stump of a tree chopped down last week
The danger for we who rent here is the gradual loss of the shade and cooling effect that these trees have provided. When left to nature’s own way, these trees grow up to 90 feet and have a spread of up to 70 feet (the spread is less for the oaks). The imported ornamental trees have neither the height nor the breadth and provide no such cooling effect. Unlike the permanent residence of the American plane and oak trees, these trees serve other interests (local and out-of-state).
When I asked the driver of the Bartlett thingamajig about the tree, I was told that the tree was dead. Now you can bet, when management and the scientific folks tell the rest of us that trees (there have been many instances) with green leaves are dead, that explanation is most certainly not rooted in the interests of tree care. “Tree care” is merely the facade.
We who rent here may not have the physical muster to prevent the wanton destruction by expert/scientific pruning of our canopy, but it is our responsibility to care for that which is life itself.
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.