How to Prevent Additional Trees at Washington Square Park from Dying? — Questions Abound

Updated 1:15 p.m.Why are so many trees at Washington Square Park dying? In addition to those perpetually dying around the Washington Square Fountain (8 thus far in 2 years), numerous trees are dying along the perimeter and inside the park. Since there are so many, I’ve documented them with a photo montage. Note: Many of these dead trees were cleared on Friday.

Questions abound — What is the problem here? Are the tree deaths occurring from the construction from Redesign Phase I and II (as many predicted; in fact people in the community went to court over this matter to attempt to stop this)? Were – and are – the trees not properly protected? Are the trees not properly maintained? (Is it Parks Department karma?) How can we save Washington Square Park’s trees?

wash sq north
wash sq south (by kimmel center)
Inside park - Northern end
"The Hills are Alive" trees Eastern end
wash square west
Inside park - SW construction area
SW dead trees inside park (construction area)
wash square south (tree behind this one died also)
Trees Removed Friday
Dead Tree Uprooted
South sidewalk now
Southwestern corner now
Behind SW Construction fence -- These two trees are left (one of them now is also clearly dying)

For some insight into the cause of the problems, see most illuminating comment left here.

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3 thoughts on “How to Prevent Additional Trees at Washington Square Park from Dying? — Questions Abound”

  1. This loss of trees is very disturbing to me, as a 20-year neighbor of the park. Of course it’s because of the reconstruction! What else can it be?

    Last week (although I had not read the blog in a while and was not aware of how many trees were affected), I called 3-1-1 to complain about the empty spaces where trees had been planted and died, how it was due to the unnecessary moving of the fountain, and how the center of the park is now often too hot to enjoy due to the lack of shade. They took the complaint down to refer to the Parks Dept.

    I assume you have seen this article that appeared today and in which you are quoted:

    Dear Cathryn,
    I really don’t understand why you are so upset about dying trees.  Do we really even need to have trees in Washington Square Park when there are so many other nice things there?  Like hot dog and falafal vendors and the big (partially broken) water fountain.  Most of the time trees just get in the way of the frisbee players or the kids who want to run around.  I think the park should just replace all of the dying trees with plastic ones.  Flushing Meadow and Corona Park both are city parks that the city replaced the natural lawns with synthetic ones.  What a great idea.  If we could fill our parks with hazardous plastic lawns, why not accent them with plastic trees?

    Sure, it is unfortunate that yesterday the temperature of the fake grass reached over 160 degrees and was capable of causing first degree burns in children (stupid children – running on the grass – what is wrong with them?) — I still think it’s a perfect solution.  The Parks department would just have to put up signs that would say, “Please do not let your children play on the grass,” or “Enter at your own risk.” or “Playing in this park may be hazardous to your health.”  That way the city would not be liable for any insane law suits by parents of injured and burned children.
    I think, Cathryn, that the “root” (If you will pardon my pun), of this problem is not dying trees, but in having real trees in the park to begin with.  While the reconstruction of the park tore down many of the sturdy older trees, they really should have leveled the whole park to make way for the future.
    We don’t need trees or grass in our parks when there is perfectly good plastic to be bought by the city with our tax dollars.  Think of all the jobs that would be created, after all, and the little children of the plastic grass manufacturers who will have a happy Christmas. 
    It is selfish and stupid to care for these trees, Cathryn.  Shame on  you.


  3. Hi Seth,

    Thanks for your insightful comment and for reaching out to 311. Yes, I saw the DNAinfo story. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Johanna, Thanks for your great Patch blog post and comment!
    “Root” of the problem indeed!



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