What Will Happen Next for Washington Square Park Trees? Four New Arrivals Replace Perpetually Dying Trees Around Fountain

If you were wondering what the Parks Department’s next move would be after all the attention given to the perpetually dying trees that line the Washington Square fountain, it appeared when four new trees were planted mid-last week…

Village Green Zelkova
One of the New Tree Arrivals (West)
New tree
Roots? Drainage?
One in a Million
One of four new trees


When NBC New York featured a segment on this story in late September, the New York City Parks Department told reporter Chris Glorioso:

“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.”

At the time, Glorioso spoke to an arborist, Ralph Padilla, who stated:

“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. …

My initial reporting on this in 2009 including speaking to a landscape architect at the Park who revealed that the design was inappropriate for the trees’ survival. He stated that the Parks Department would likely not address the issue sufficiently — due to internal politics and not wanting to ruffle the park’s redesigner – and accurately predicted that this pattern of dying trees would happen repeatedly. Eight young trees have died over four years; in two locations, trees have been planted and died three times in a row. These trees all replaced healthy 40 year old trees axed due to the Bloomberg Administration’s symmetrical “vision” of moving the fountain from its historical location 22 feet east to “align” with the Arch.

The way these four new trees are planted looks exactly the same – in fact, the roots look even more submerged. What do you think? Will the arborcide continue?

Inquiries this blog has made to the city Parks Department as to what their assessment revealed have not been responded to.
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2 thoughts on “What Will Happen Next for Washington Square Park Trees? Four New Arrivals Replace Perpetually Dying Trees Around Fountain

  1. I will say a prayer for the tree’s survival.

    Thank you for your continued coverage on this issue. It may seem a small thing in this complex world– but it is the little things that matter.

  2. Thank you, Karen. Well, we can’t just be killing trees or allowing the city to do so, right? I think it’s important to show the dysfunction of the parks department but it’s true there’s so many huge things going on … I think they are all linked tho’. When the bullies get to be in charge and make decisions based on real estate and making everything ‘pretty’ vs. listening to the voices of the community … that’s where the disparities occur and continue to occur.

    I know you know this! :)

    Take care & thanks for writing.

    Cathryn.

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