Target removes trees in front of Forest Hills site

By Graciano Clause

The two-level, 21,000-square-foot Target slated to open in Forest Hills next month has left some Queens residents uneasy.

After residents had petitioned to keep a Barnes & Noble bookstore at the site on Austin Street that will now be occupied by Target, changes being made just outside the new store are throwing salt on the neighborhood’s wounds.

Target has bricked over three tree pits that used to be on the sidewalk running down Austin Street between 70th Avenue and 69th Road. The tree stumps were left in the pits for months, until were they taken out over the last few weeks. The chain removed the stumps and tiled the pits over with red bricks.

The move frustrated many Forest Hills residents. Suzanne Parker, the restaurant reviewer for the TimesLedger Newspapers, expressed her concern.

“In an urban environment, every tree is precious,” she said. “It provides shade, beauty and oxygen. Its planting pit augments drainage in times of flooding. If a tree dies, it should be replaced with a specimen suitable for the location. If Target wants to forge good relations with the community they’re entering, they should offer, plant and maintain replacement trees, not brick over the planting pits.”

City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) cleared up the enigma surrounding the bricked over tree pits.

“The trees were diseased,” said Koslowitz. “Target is going to replace the trees. At the moment they are just waiting for the Parks Department’s approval.”

She added that the trees should be replaced by around October.

The city Department of Transportation recently hit Target with a summons for not getting a permit to renovate the sidewalk using bricks, and not concrete. That type of fine could cost them up to $250.

Target’s grand opening is set for July 20.