By Steve Mosco
There is sap on their hands.
When nine cherry trees in full bloom were unceremoniously chopped down at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens last month, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services said the trees were “diseased and needed to be removed.”
But it turns out the trees might have been in perfect health, according to an e-mail obtained by Geoffrey Croft of New York City Parks Advocates, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting city parks.
According to the 2009 document, all but three of the trees were deemed in “good condition” by the landscape architectural firm Abel Bainnson & Butz during an assessment survey.
DCAS hired the landscaping firm to work on a $17 million atrium project for Borough Hall — a project which initiated the removal of the trees for a staging area for construction equipment.
According to the e-mail, an arborist with Abel Bainnson & Butz concluded that “three cherries in the northern lawn area should be removed because of disease, decline, etc., and the remainder of the cherries, while in desperate need for pruning, are in good condition.”
In that same e-mail, the landscaping firm gave city officials two options on how to deal with the cherry trees. The first option called for the removal of three trees and the preservation of the rest, while the second option recommended removing all of the trees.
The city chose to remove all nine the trees.
“Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Croft said. “The city is more interested in photo-ops for planting new trees than in caring for the ones we already have. They operated under the principle that they won’t get caught and no one will care.”
While the trees were examined in 2009, Croft said it is unlikely the trees could have contracted a fungal disease in the time since then.
“DCAS said the fungus had spread since 2009, yet they are unable to provide any tree health condition report or any documentation whatsoever to back this assertion,” he said.
Calls to DCAS and Abel Bainnson & Butz went unreturned.
A representative from Borough President Helen Marshall’s office said officials are currently reviewing a report from a DCAS-hired arborist, but could not provide a copy of the report or the name of the arborist.
Marshall’s representative also said the city will plant a new grove of trees and bushes after the one-year construction project is completed. When completed, the atrium will provide space for meetings and cultural events, according to Marshall’s office.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.