Union Square Park Pre-and-Post Tree Destruction

union sq pre-tree destruction may 08

union square post-tree destruction may 08

The photo to the left illustrates the luscious trees that existed at Union Square Park just a week ago. The photo below portrays the area as it looks now.

NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has issued strong statements in the past about “serial tree killers” in our city who destroy trees for no reason and how it is a crime with a $5,000 fine. But I’d have to say that he ranks up there as one. The tree destruction under his Parks Department, at the direction of Mayor Bloomberg, often in the interest of privatization, is outrageous and criminal.

What’s important to be aware of is that the Parks Department plays public relations word games in dealing with communities. They’ll state… but look we’re going to increase the playground to THREE TIMES the size!

First, did the playground really need to be tripled? Would doubled have worked if it meant saving these mature, healthy trees that are integral to the park?

Also, it’s important to be aware that this redesign plan is being put forth by the local Business Improvement District, Union Square Partnership, with influential restauranteur Danny Meyer as co-chair. There is a decrease in the public space for free speech, for the GreenMarket, for the artists, for everyone to utilize. And don’t be surprised if the restaurant idea for the historic Pavilion creeps back into the picture now that they are working on a fresh canvas.

Next up amongst Parks Commissioner Benepe’s standard responses is … but we’re planting MORE trees!

As if most of us will be alive in 80 years to see the new baby saplings reach the magnificence of the ones they’ve destroyed. We live in an urban environment. Much has been discussed about the importance of trees. Parks Commissioner Benepe and CEO Mayor Michael Bloomberg are businessmen through and through. Neither one of them should be in charge of our city’s trees. But perhaps what I find most offensive is that they get a free pass on this and the media spouts back their p.r. about “MillionTreesNYC” so that is all that most people know about.
Read this too: “Crimes Against Nature: The NYC Parks Department” for further background.


Photos: Jessica Alfieri

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5 thoughts on “Union Square Park Pre-and-Post Tree Destruction”

  1. Adrian Benepe — and his predecessor, Henry Stern — think of themselves as successors to Robert Moses. Robert Moses took the view that he knew best what was good for everyone and each neighborhood. This view permeates the entire Parks Dept. staff, as well. Bob Redmond — Manhattan Capital Projects boss — defines himself as “tree people”. The person charged with spreading seed on the lawn in our local Washington Market Park considers himself an expert on how to give us the lawn we need (but, no tilth to mix in the peat moss, and had never heard of rolling a lawn…).

    None of these folks are literate; none of them has a clue that there is a different perspective than the sort of bureaucratic we-do-it-for-your-own-good ‘tude. None of them have comprehended the lessons of Jane Jacobs, e. g.. And all of them take the same view that Stern expressed recently, anent the Hudson River park: What? Let the People decide? That’s Communism.”


  2. Hi B.

    You know what? I am NOT kidding. Mayor Bloomberg and Benepe strut around and talk about how important trees are. Well obviously not THAT Important when the names Tisch and Danny Meyer and Yankee Corporation come into play.

    Trees, shrubs, they are still greenery, living entities. They are cutting down FOURTEEN TREES. Homes to birds, squirrels, wildlife … part of the beauty of the park. Maybe some are shorter trees and you don’t feel they deserve attention. They are still mature trees that (a) create necessary greenery in our urban environment, (b) add to increased health of the environment and (c) they are part of the park, its history, ITS living environment.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    (WSP blogger)


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