NBC’s Chris Glorioso covered the repeatedly dying trees around the Washington Square Fountain in a comprehensive and well done segment last night on the 11 p.m. news. It was based on my coverage here at the Washington Square Park Blog and I was interviewed. One additional point I would have included in the piece — the fact that these young trees that have died (8 total in 2 years) replaced healthy 40 year old trees that previously lined the Fountain before it was moved 22 feet east to align with the Arch at Fifth Avenue.
You can watch the NBC piece here: “Dead Trees at Washington Square Park Blamed on Parks Department”.
** For an overview of the situation from this blog, this is most recent piece on the topic — How many trees around the Washington Square Fountain Must Die before Suffocating Design is Corrected?”
In addition to the trees being planted too deep and therefore not receiving enough oxygen (as the arborist in NBC piece states), the entire design that is housing the trees is incorrect as far as allowing proper drainage and supporting the usage of structural soil. There are people within the Parks Department who certainly know what the issues are.
Here’s a print preview from the NBC site:
The sickly tree is one of eight that have died in just the last two years. All of the doomed arbors were planted as part of a $30 million park renovation championed by the Bloomberg administration.
“The Parks Department is knowingly committing arborcide,” said Cathryn Swan, a neighbor who has been posting pictures of the dead trees on her website, the Washington Square Park Blog.
“There are two locations where the trees have been planted and replanted three times, and they’ve died all three times,” Swan said. “I’m worried they’re going to plant those trees a fourth time. I just feel like it ends up being sort of heartbreaking.”
The New York City Parks Department said in a prepared statement, “We have experienced a series of failed plantings for the Zelkova trees in the area around Washington Square Park’s plaza. We are investigating potential causes of why trees are not surviving here and will conduct soil tests, examine the drainage, and determine if there is a problem with this particular species.”
But professional arborist Ralph Padilla diagnosed the planting problem as relatively simple. “It was planted incorrectly,” he said after examining the dead tree near the arch. “It was planted too deep.”
“The giveaway is that all trees, before they enter the soil [should] flare out slightly at the base,” he said.
The dead tree near the arch does not flare out at all, Padilla said. He said it was possible that private contractors or parks personnel repeated the mistake by burying the root balls of eight trees too far beneath the soil, suppressing oxygen supply. When roots are submerged too deeply, recent transplants can die. …
Cathryn Swan blames poor oversight and bureaucracy for the bungled plantings. Each time a tree fails to take root, contractors must wait for the next seasonal window to re-plant. Already, the Washington Square Park renovation has lasted nearly four years. The phase of the project that includes the dead trees was supposed to be wrapped up by 2009.
“People talk about bureaucracy and city government. You want to believe there are people who will step in and stop the bureaucracy sometimes, but with something like this it is clear that is not happening,” Swan said.