Union Square Park Healthy & Mature Trees Coming Down… by Order of NYC Parks Department

unionsquareconstruction051908Received word from another blogger, Jessica Alfieri (who took the picture above), that the fourteen to fifteen healthy, mature trees at Union Square Park are getting the ax. These amazing trees have been part of this park for many years. She writes that one of the “big ones” came down last week (one of the great Siberian Elms I presume) and “six or seven little ones” came down yesterday. Those trees were to the left of the Pavilion in the foreground of the photo. There are still a few standing (not for long tho’).

Shouldn’t we be protecting our trees somehow … from our own government’s follies?

Saturday, May 17th was “It’s My Park Day” in NYC hosted by the NYC Parks Department at parks across our city. It typically involves planting of things and clean up. (I always refer to it as It’s Our Park Day.) I was involved with a Park Day Eco*Fair which had many components to it (activist groups, Freecycle FreeMeet, urban gardening, music, and more) at J.J. Byrne Park in Park Slope on Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue.

A woman who then identified herself as a landscape architect came by the Recycle This! table where I was standing. Displayed were some of the flyers about what’s happening at Washington Square Park as well as a flyer about public space/privatization/tree destruction under Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Parks Department. This woman was avidly perusing the flyer. She looked up and said, “I have to question what you’ve written here about the trees coming down and privatization.” She continued, “I am a landscape architect and I’ve done work for the Parks Department and we’re not allowed to touch the trees. We are instructed to work with what’s there.” I told her I wished that that was how the New York City Parks Department had been proceeding but it’s not so.

(The flyer she was examining outlines the tree destruction at Union Square Park, Washington Square Park, Yankee Stadium/Macombs and Mullaly Parks, East River Park, Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir and Randall’s Island.)

I explained to her what was happening at Union Square Park as the most recent example – about the court order that ultimately allowed the removal of the trees, per the city’s instructions, to make room for an expanded playground and potential restaurant. She seemed very surprised. I wonder if the Brooklyn Parks Department (which this woman had worked with) is much more sensitive to preserving trees? It would be interesting to know.

This would make a great City Council initiative — legislation that the Parks Department must work with the existing trees – work them into their design plans – and only as a very very last resort remove any when doing reconstruction, redesign or the like.

** To see a photo of the healthy trees at Union Square Park that are being chopped down presently, click here. **