Irene’s Heights victim — the Mansion Elm!

The Brooklyn Paper
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Hurricane Irene mostly spared the city, but it destroyed a beloved and controversial 80-year-old tree that Brooklyn Heights residents once battled a co-op board to save.

At about 5 am on Sunday, Irene’s wicked winds knocked down the American elm in front of The Mansion House on Hicks Street — smashing the gigantic tree into a house across the street and breaking arbor-loving hearts across the neighborhood.

“This is a tragedy,” said Jonathan Elliott, a 49-year-old composer who lives in the 107-unit building near Clark Street. “This tree shaded a third of the block. It’s hard to imagine this street without it.”

Elliott was one of many locals who fought to save the tree in 2007, when his co-op board — which saw the aging elm as a liability — secretly voted to chop it down rather than pay to reroute electrical pipes that were caught in the tree’s ancient roots.

The dispute turned so ugly that some residents vowed to chain themselves to the tree to prevent its destruction.

In the end, Mother Nature won where the co-op board had lost. The toppled tree ripped up the sidewalk, knocked over a brick wall in the Mansion courtyard, and smashed through a window across the street. No one was injured.

The tree was more than just a picturesque canopy — it was a living piece of Heights history. It not only survived prior storms and the co-op board, but also Dutch elm disease, a plague that wiped out millions of American elms across the country.

“The tree was absolutely important to the neighborhood as shown by the all the people who came out today,” said Sebastian Lamicella, another of the tree’s backers.

“Everybody would stop and look at it when they passed. The yard won’t be the same without it.”

Updated 5:26 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Skippy from the heartland says:
Just like with Osama bin Laden, I won't believe this tree is dead until I see a picture of it.
Aug. 29, 2011, 6:08 am
bruce from midwood says:
A picture would make this story complete
Aug. 29, 2011, 6:47 am
Homer Fink from Brooklyn Heights says:
Here ya go:
Aug. 29, 2011, 7:07 am
matt from kensington says:
Wow, I can see how devastating that is.
Aug. 29, 2011, 7:24 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
It would make a lovely table and chair set.

Maybe the Co-Op could make paneling out of it.
Aug. 29, 2011, 11:47 am
Susannah from Brooklyn Heights says:
If you eliminated half of the foundation of a building and it fell down in a wind storm or an earth quake no one would be surprised. I am an architect and a landscape architect and this is what I think about.

People forget that trees also have foundations - their roots. When we eliminate roots the tree loses its structure. I am very familiar with this tree and the circumstances of its demise and am not surprised in the least that it succumbed to the storm.

The Mayor suggests that soft saturated soils can lead to tree fall. This is true but the other big issue is the elimination of structure to add foundations, infrastructure conduits and hard-scape. All of these interventions increase the likelihood that the tree structure will fail.
Aug. 30, 2011, 10:26 am
Barbara from Brooklyn Heights says:
Does anyone care about the 1826 house that the tree fell on, or the beautiful flowering pear tree that it destroyed?
Aug. 31, 2011, 8:06 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
What Nature giveth, Nature taketh away.
Sept. 8, 2011, 1:31 pm
Ringo from Brooklyn Heights says:
Anyone knows how much this will cost to the mansion house co-op? they should have chopped the thing down a few years ago.
Sept. 11, 2011, 11:36 am

Comments closed.

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