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City chops down last Boro Hall trees

Photo courtesy Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates
Photo courtesy Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates
By Steve Mosco

The Queens Borough Hall cherry tree massacre produced a sequel last week.

Two dozen more cherry trees were chopped down months after Borough President Helen Marshall’s office came under fire for allowing the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to chop down nine mostly healthy trees in order to make room for a $17 million atrium project, according to Geoffrey Croft, of NYC Park Advocates.

Croft said the city had promised to save the remaining trees by uprooting and replanting them during construction of the atrium.

“When the news surfaced that the trees were coming down and the story received intense media attention, construction was put on hold and the city promised they would save the remaining trees, but that did not happen,” said Croft, whose organization is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting city parks. “The reason? The cost.”

Marshall spokesman Dan Andrews said the borough president’s office spoke to several arborists and decided uprooting the trees was not cost efficient and there was no guarantee the trees would survive.

“Based on the findings of several arborists, it was decided that the prudent course of action was to not transplant uprooted trees, which had only a possibility of surviving and instead double the number of uprooted trees with 24 new trees that will be planted as part of the atrium project,” Andrews said. “Multi-thousands of dollars would have been necessary to transplant and maintain the trees uprooted with only a definite maybe that they would survive transplantation.”

Andrews went on to say the trees, which were aging, were removed and the project is moving forward. He said more than double the number of trees taken down will be planted and will live longer.

At the time that the original nine trees were taken down, Administrative Services said the trees were diseased, but according to an e-mail obtained by Croft all but three of the trees were deemed in “good condition” by the landscape architectural firm Abel Bainnson & Butz during an assessment survey.

The e-mail said 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 the trees.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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