You Can't Make This Stuff Up!
- Subject: [cg] You Can't Make This Stuff Up!
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 09:19:36 -0500
One thing for sure, and I'm sure the mystery will sort itself out - we take
our trees seriously in the Big Apple, home of the serious, media conscious
tree-hugger! We don't have Sequoias, a London Plane or Ginko will do for us to
This was forwarded to me by Don Loggins, of the Liz Christy Garden, a group
that has gone to the mat for its trees.
(You didn't think we had trees in NYC?)
Parks Dept kills Heights trees -
then charges a patsy with murder
By Gersh Kuntzman
The Brooklyn Papers
Five Brooklyn Heights residents in the
prime of their lives were murdered in broad
daylight last week - and a man who fought
to keep them alive has been charged in the
crime even though he didn't pull the trigger.
The actual killers of two London plane trees and
three gingkoes - which stood for decades in front
of a large apartment tower at 75 Henry St. - were
workers for the New York City Parks Department.
The Case of the Terminated Trees reads like a
mystery novel - except this isn't a whodunnit, but
The roots of this tall tale go back to November,
when contractors renovating the cement plaza at
the apartment building may have damaged the 35-
Or maybe not.
"We got hit with summonses and received a letter
from the Parks Department saying we damaged
the trees and they had to be removed at our expense,"
explained an engineer from York Restoration,
who requested anonymity because the murder
charge is being appealed.
The company's owner, George York, hired arborist
Don Venezia, who inspected the allegedly
"At this time," Venezia wrote, "the trees have set
bud and in my opinion are alive and healthy."
Venezia said that one of the gingkoes has "some
small root damage, less than one inch," but suggested
that the problem could be remedied by trimming
"the damaged roots."
The Parks Department did not accept Venezia's
diagnosis. "Brooklyn forestry requests that these
Four of the five tree stumps that remain in
front of 75 Henry St. after the Parks Department
chopped down their 35-year-old tops.
trees are removed due to root damage ASAP,"
Matthew Wells, a department forester, wrote back.
York offered a compromise - namely that the
trial be put on hold until the spring to see if the
trees were thriving. If they were not, York
promised to replace them.
But the company got no response until
last week, when Parks Department workers
showed up with chainsaws and started removing
"One of the workers stopped cutting after
he removed the first branch and called his
supervisor because the tree was alive," said
the York engineer. "He said, 'Are you sure I
have the right tree?' But he was told to keep
cutting. That's how crazy this whole thing
But as with any good murder story,
George Della Latta, president of the building's
co-op board, thinks nefarious forces
are at work.
"The way I figure it, the lifespan of a
street tree is, what, 20 years?" Latta said.
"So the Parks Department figures they're
going to have to replace these trees anyway,
so why not find a way to make someone
else not only pay for their removal, but pay
to replace them, too?"
Latta has been sharing his theory with
elected officials and even reporter David
Diaz, who does the "Shame on You!" segment
on WCBS-Channel 2 news.
The Parks Department did not return repeated
calls for comment.
The irony is that the trees were allegedly
damaged during ongoing construction that
will transform the barren cement plaza at 75
Henry St. into a lushly landscaped sitting
Some of the lost trees actually appear in
the architectural renderings of the $4-million
The Brooklyn Papers / Greg Mango
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