Rotting trees and crumbling medians have turned Union Turnpike in eastern Queens into an eyesore

Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS

A median running through one of eastern Queens’ most active thoroughfares needs the attention of multiple city agencies, according to a Hollis Hills activist.

Louis Lapolla, who has lived in the neighborhood straddling the Bayside/Queens Village border for nearly 50 years, has been fighting for the removal of dead trees along Union Turnpike between Winchester Boulevard and Main Street for years.

According to Lapolla, the city planted the trees along the median around six years ago. Many died almost immediately.

“I’ve been trying for a while,” he told QNS. “I don’t care so much about getting the new trees planted — that would be nice — but if we could just get these dead trees cut down.”


Lapolla reached out to local elected officials, including Councilman Barry Grodenchik and state Senator Tony Avella, who wrote to the city’s Parks Department on his behalf. Still, he said, the dead trees remain.

In previous years, Lapolla reached out directly to the Parks Department about dead trees in another area of eastern Queens. There, he said, he saw a response.

Trees planted along the median pose “one of the most difficult challenges” to the Parks Department’s forestry team, according to city spokesperson Meghan Lalor said. Consistent exposure to air pollution, salt and vehicle collisions subject trees to high mortality rates.

“Currently, we are working on developing strategies to re-populate these areas with tree plantings designed specifically to endure the harsh conditions of highly trafficked corridors,” Lalor said. “That being said, where site conditions are not conducive to the long-term survival of trees, we will not pursue new tree planting, regardless of whether or not those sites included trees in the past.”

The Parks Department could not provide an immediate timeframe for the removal and potential replacement of the trees along the particular median.

Lapolla is also a member of the Hollis Hills Civic Association. He said that the group plans to send the Parks Department a letter about the issue in the coming months.

While onsite with QNS, Lapolla also pointed out the condition of the concrete median, which was crumbling or had entire blocks missing in some areas.


“You see how many cars pass by? People take Union Turnpike to avoid the expressway and the parkway. It’s a very busy thoroughfare,” he said. “And not for nothing, this is going through Bellerose, Hollis Hills, Jamaica Estates … These are some of the best neighborhoods in Queens.”

The conditions create a dangerous condition for drivers and pedestrians. Paired with the dead trees, he added, the crumbling concrete adds to the unappealing aesthetic.

QNS reached out to DOT for comment and is awaiting a response.