How Many Trees Around the Washington Square Fountain Must Die Before Suffocating Design is Corrected?

With all the talk about “MillionTreesNYC” in our city, as one blogger wrote, it’s really “OneMillionDeadTrees”. Another p.r. ruse put forth by our Mayor — the plan lacks any built-in initiative to maintain the “million” trees planted on neighborhood streets.

For the perpetually dying trees that line the Washington Square Park Fountain, it’s a bit more complex. It’s known that the design is killing these trees, and yet no one will speak up within the Parks Department as the designer of the park is greatly protected within the city agency. Community Board 2 will not address it (the Parks Committee of the Community Board is chaired by a former Parks Dept staffer whose job now is dependent on the Hudson River Trust, which is tied to the Parks Department) and local Council Member Margaret Chin is hands off.

How many more trees lining the famous Washington Square fountain have to die?

Source of the problem: the tree 'pit'

For a few months up until July, there were three dead trees lining the fountain (of eight total). Two of those locations had trees replanted and died three times in succession.

Now those locations are vacant, likely awaiting a fourth try by the Parks Department at getting these trees to miraculously live. There is no way they can live unless the design itself is changed. Experts in landscape and construction will support this.

Of course, it must again be noted that these young trees took the place of healthy, living, old trees that had been there over 40 years, chopped down as they were inconveniently in the way of the Bloomberg Administration’s plan to relocate the fountain 22 feet east to align with the Arch.

A professional pointed out to me yesterday that it is no coincidence that this tree south of the Arch died immediately after the heavy rain fall. There is no proper drainage for those trees within those tree pits (also connected to the use of the structural soil I was originally informed), based on George Vellonakis’s design, so that last tremendously heavy rainstorm, the water could not drain, sending the tree cascading to its death basically drowning.

When I mentioned the improper drainage to Mr. Vellonakis back in December 2009 at a Washington Square Park Task Force meeting (note: those Task Force meetings have since ceased), he looked at me incredulously and with a bit of disdain and said “there is no drainage problem.”

Well, there is and there always was.

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5 thoughts on “How Many Trees Around the Washington Square Fountain Must Die Before Suffocating Design is Corrected?”

  1. Linda,

    Thanks for your interest. That *is* the question, isn’t it?!

    I’m thinking flyering at the park might be in order but for now —

    One thing I suggested yesterday was contacting City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office — Allie Nudelman; liaison to Community Board 2 District – direct phone # 212/564-7757

    It’s a tough one because these city agencies don’t have proper oversight and no department needs it more than the Parks Dept (well, that’s probably overstated but you know what I mean).

    I’m open to ideas! I’d suggest contacting Margaret Chin but I just don’t see her doing anything so I don’t want you to waste your time. I think right now Speaker Quinn’s office would make sense.

    Thanks for writing and reading and wanting to help —


  2. Eppie — You’re right. Scott Stringer’s office is a good idea too! Definitely.

    Georgia — I don’t know re: Minetta Creek. The water must lead down there and some is draining but there’s still a problem with the drainage and the way the trees are planted. It seems the roots are also too deep (too far below pavement level) and the soil is piled too high on top of them. It could potentially be the soil itself also or some combination of all of the above.

    The more we raise this issue within the community and to elected officials the better. This is going on at other parks (I know of one in Queens) but it’s pretty extreme what’s going on here.



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