By James DeWeese
The tree — planted sometime around the end of the Revolutionary War — sits on a private lot at 41-50 63rd St., where developer Anthony Wan plans to erect two five-story apartment buildings.
The original design called for the tree's removal, but revamped plans now call for the buildings and parking lot to go up around the copper leaf beech, which is temporarily ensconced behind a protective plywood barrier.
“The tree is such a unique tree,” Wan said of the beech, whose trunk easily has the girth of an elephant sitting upright.
He said given the area's high level of development, the tree was particularly special.
Wan, who has been working on the 28-unit apartment development since October 2001, could have built the complex without input from anyone.
The plans, which called for building across the entire length of the lot where the tree is located, conformed to the local zoning requirements, he said, meaning that he could have moved forward as of right.
Neighbor Louise Rosasco brought the tree's plight to the attention of Community Board 2, which covers Woodside, Sunnyside and Long Island City, said Board President Joseph Conley.
And when Conley told Wan about neighbors' concerns, he and his architects went back to the drawing board.
“We completely redesigned,” Wan said.
It took 2 1/2 years to generate the new plans, Wan said, but when the apartment and parking complex is complete, the historic tree will occupy a prominent, landscaped niche.
“Standing here, you and I look very young,” Wan said pointing at the tree that's about midway through its expected life span of more than 400 years.
The tree, one of the oldest in Queens, according to CB 2, will eventually be dedicated at the Freedom Tree, Conley said in a release. And CB 2 will press the Queens Historical Society, the Landmarks Commission and the National Register of Historic Trees for help in preserving the tree.
Wan said he hopes to break ground on the apartment complex sometime early next year. After that, the developer, who recently completed a 15-unit apartment building at 42-23 65th St., expects construction to take about two years.
“When you stand here and look at the size of this grand tree, its huge trunk and its deep roots, it is as if this tree represents the growth and deep history of our community,” Conley said.
Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at email@example.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.