Recently around the corner (at 2nd Avenue and 23rd Street North), two street oak trees were summarily razed by the City without warning. Their raw stumps may be seen above, surrounded by fresh concrete poured under a City sidewalk initiative. The trees appear to be about 35 years old if you count the rings.
Above you see the next tree moving south down 23rd St., which is exactly what the fallen two looked like. Why were two healthy trees axed? Who makes these decisions? Many of us in the neighborhood are pretty upset since, of course, we feel like the trees are the community’s.
I’ve heard that Mr. Baldone, owner of the 2-story building at the corner and the eponymous tailor shop, requested the trees be torn down because they were making his gutters too hard to clean. Whether this is correct or not is beside the point; what is troubling is that there appears to be no proper coordination at the City regarding such requests. I understand after talking to sources at the City that essentially the Public Works Department does not speak with the Planning Department, so the guys deciding to cut trees down (Public Works) are doing so without the knowledge of the guys who designed and installed them (Planning and Horticulture). A call placed to Horticulture confirmed this sad fact: the staff person fielding the call could only say “we plant the trees, we don’t tear them down” but could offer no other explanation. Because he’s not privy to it.
A street that was a couple weeks ago beautifully shaded with nice mature trees now feels naked. This is a western exposure–smart idea to include shading devices like trees for comfort and energy savings. And this building front is not exactly lined with storefronts; a common complaint of shopkeepers downtown is that trees, for all their good intentions, excessively hide the stores.
In the best urban places with strong traditions of public space, one can find trees that are not only well-tended and considered an inalienable part of the cityscape, but are the correct species both for longevity and for height/bulk in relation to adjacent storefronts. They are properly pruned to provide visibility at the street while maintaining canopies to shield from sun and provide protection in rain. Witness Paris with its elegant plane trees:
Regardless, if anyone has more information on the loss of these trees, or any insight into how the process could be more public, please share it with us. At the very least it would be nice if Public Works posted a “To be Cut” sign on the trunk a week in advance, to give people time to question/protest. The public needs to be reassured that all the work of the Planning Department can’t be quickly dispatched at the stroke of a Public Works’ employees’s pen, or at the lone behest of a single property owner. These trees give us shade, clean our air, and beautify our neighborhood. They deserve more respect.
[thanks to hansn for the Paris pic]