City must axe Fort Greene Park trees to make way for new life: Park steward

The Parks Department plans to take down 83 trees in the Fort Greene green space to make way for a paved plaza.
Brooklyn Paper
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These trees must die so that others may live!

The leader of a non-profit dedicated to maintaining Fort Greene Park came out in favor of a controversial scheme hatched by the Parks Department to chop down dozens of trees at the beloved green space, saying the trees targeted for destruction are preventing other, better plants from taking root.

“Its roots and canopy are so dense with the shade, that things don’t grow underneath it. So yes, we like trees, but these types of trees are not friendly to other types of plants and habitats,” said Rosamond Fletcher, the executive director of the Fort Greene Conservancy, a non-profit that works closely with the city on the park’s upkeep and for hosting events there.

The city wants to destroy a total of 83 trees, 52 to make way for a grand paved plaza at the Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street corner of Fort Greene Park, and another 31 to accommodate a redesign the park near Myrtle Avenue and Washington Park.

But the plan hit a roadblock after local residents and environmentalists filed a lawsuit against the city in state Supreme Court in April, demanding officials conduct an environmental review of their plaza scheme to determine whether replacing trees with concrete paving would create a hot zone that could negatively affect surrounding wildlife.

But the idea that the Parks Department wants to replace a crop of trees with nothing but concrete is nonsense, according to Fletcher, who said the felled trees will be largely replaced by a so-called “understory garden” consisting of younger trees, shurbs, and ferns that will help prevent erosion and provide a better habitat for Brooklyn’s birds and bugs.

“They help other trees with their roots, they help with habitats for birds and pollinators and all of that good stuff,” she said. “When we think about the environmental health of the park, we’re not just thinking about the health of the trees, we’re thinking about everything.”

An attorney for the plaintiffs accused Fletcher of trying to help the city dodge a transparent environmental review, saying if the city was so interested in creating an ecological wonderland, their laywers might have mentioned the vaunted understory garden during oral arguments held last month.

“They’re just coming up with some rationale for what they’re doing and they keep thinking of reasons to support their position to not do an environmental review, which is untenable,” said Richard Lippes. “The undergrowth issue was never made by the Parks Department in their oral arguments.”

Instead, the city is really just interested in ramming through its chosen design regardless of the environmental hazards, according to Lippes, who noted a previous lawsuit regarding the plaza plan that revealed Parks Department claim that the trees were targeted due to poor health was a bald-faced lie.

“You’ve got mature trees that give excellent shade which cannot be replaced for 30-40 years if you plant new trees,” he said.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 1:17 pm, October 8, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Senior says:
Why is New “better” then old? Ageism is alive and well!!!
Oct. 8, 9:47 am
We own Climate Change w/our actions from The earth says:
It's remarkable viewing the scrambling to justify the indefensible scheme for the Ft Greene Parks Without Borders. To give the benefit of the doubt to those who've been brainwashed with misinformation and are willing to abet the environmental consequences of the plan, one sees the Parks Dept and the Conservancy coming up with new plot lines every time the Dept of Parks rationale is inconvenient facts! First it was the 'sickness' of the trees-an independent Arborist said they are just fine & the Parks Dept after a FOIL revealed they were slated to be 'offed' for 'redesign'! Then it was all about viewing the Monument-the tree canopy foliage is -um- in the way for an untainted view. Oh -but there's more- per the Parks Dept own statement to the press: "We have the responsibility to balance the benefits of development & tree preservation for the greater good of the community. While design-based tree removals are uncommon in our capital projects, they are necessary for this design. (Read between the lines-luxury buildings with their politician campaign funders-want that corner-adjacent to the NYCHA public housing-cleaned up). Now it's the desperate assertion cited in the above article introducing the "understory garden" as a comparable benefit when 58 tall canopied healthy trees are eviscerated...really? When the historic grassy mounds beloved by dancing kidoodles as their stage and costumed dogs competing on Halloween are leveled...honestly? But don't take my word for it...go to the website-link below -check out the videos...the facts...the lawsuits and yes, the community preference which wants the Parks Dept to get back to stewarding the health of the trees-not the urban planning redesigning attack that Commissioner Silver now owns.
Oct. 9, 12:18 pm
Franklin Ben Penny from Marine Park says:
Looks like someone wants to make way for yet another bike path. Those pedal pushers just want it all.
Oct. 9, 5:42 pm
Fiddle Faddle from Flatland says:
Park Trees were chopped down on Flatbush Avenue to erect a bike path off Prospect Park. It looks like that in Fort Greene the same thing is about to occur. Pedestrians and Park lovers should get their say too.
Oct. 9, 7:01 pm
Tree Hugger from Fort Greene says:
Wow! It took three years for the Understory Garden to emerge as a brand new reason for 83 trees to be axed and to install a 43-foot wide cement plaza. Any good horticulturist would tell Ms Fletcher that there are plants that survive in the shade. What is the excuse to remove the lush circle of plants that attract many pollinators that greet you near the Myrtle entrance to the park and turn it into a cement fountain? Under Story refers to rainforests. Can't wait for the tree frogs to emerge after cutting down 83 trees in the prime of their life. The lies just keep rolling out!
Oct. 9, 9:16 pm
Kenya Castro from Forte Greene says:
The park is a historical site and must be preserved. Cutting the trees down would destroy what the park is all about. The park is a gathering of family and friends coming together to celebrate their most precious moments. Let's keep this going by preserving our trees!!!!
Oct. 11, 1:42 am
Ellen from Fort Greene says:
There is no good reason to destroy 83 beautiful mature trees that currently support plenty of life under their canopy, other than what I see as a push for further gentrification in the area by the city/developers. I manage a garden business and can tell you, with some soil amendment and the right plant choices for shade and drought tolerance, the understory garden could be expanded for a tiny fraction of the cost of what is proposed as well as adding other amenities and improving the original masterful design of that area of the park without needlessly destroying some of its most valuable resources and disrupting the community.
Oct. 11, 5:25 am
Nubian Certified Arborist Mom from Fort Greene Park says:
A critical benefit of large trees is that the have the best impact in cleaning the air. "The State of the Air" report for 2019 produced by the American Lung Association ranks our NYC area as the 10th worse smog area in the USA. I raised my child in Downtown Brooklyn across the street from the park and he struggled with asthma as an infant. The seniors living next to the park are the next most vunerable population that struggles with asthma challenges and a new senior residence is being completed opposite the park on Myrtle Ave. Removing more than 50 of the 84 trees or a plaza at the Myrtle Ave and St. Edwards Street corner of the park is a poor public health decision. The right plant in the right place is a basic motto used in the study of forestry and landscape architecture. I have practiced in these fields for more than 30 years in NYC and started my studies in National Forests prior to this. I have worked as a science educator and the Fort Greene Conservancy and the Parks Department is "practicing" politics which is great for tourism and developers by removing this many trees and trying to balance out the increased erosion by adding shrubs and smalls trees as an inappropriate band aide. An environment impact review would bring to light the true benefits of adding more pavement to the redesign of the park than needed. So far as natural habitats are concerned, waterfronts and forest buffers are good fits for small shrubs and trees. The current landscape of high rises in this area of Brooklyn has resulted in a large failure of new street trees. The city is also currently battling the Emerald Ash Borer and at least 8 of the street trees on Myrtle Ave along the park are ash trees. These additional trees likely to decline and be added to the tree removal count during the planned park renovation. The math of the number of trees that will be lost due to this construction is way off since the installation of railing will trench roots. The Parks website notes in the Tree pit care feature that digging around shallow roots can cause damage to trees. There have been previous designs in the park were small shrubs and trees were added along the Fort Greene Place walkway and those plants had to be removed due to the crime events. Better to focus on making the entrance of the park more ADA complaint on Myrtle Ave and not reopen the wall on St. Edwards St. and fail again with erosion concerns. The water runoff management that the trees and the wall master there is being underrated so close the paved playground area. Native or non- native trees in the park and the perimeter are critical in a park with barbequing and seasonal noisy events that impact adjacent residents when less local park visitors and tourist experience a limited impact on their quality of life. I know we are in the home of the New York minute but the Conservancy and Parks needs to take the higher ground and practice good park design revisit the environmental review.
Oct. 11, 5:36 am
Fort Greene neighbor from Fort Greene says:
We love the trees and our park. It’s excellent and doesn’t need to be changed. The shade they provide is needed in the summer. It also seems like they want to eliminate shade from the side of the park closer to the projects. If they want to plant more ferns and “understory” they can do that on the other side of the park where there is already open space. Stop trying to make excuses for removing these trees. They have survived for so long. Why should we kill them!!
Oct. 11, 6:12 am
Donald Loggins from Flatbush says:
There is no reason to kill 83 healthy trees other then they do not fit into the administration’s plan for the Park. The city has been providing fake justifications from the beginning to justify killing healthy trees.
Oct. 11, 6:51 am
Confused from Fort Greene says:
How in the world do you create an "understory garden" on a cement plaza? That's the dumbest excuse to cut down these trees that I've heard yet.
Oct. 11, 7:40 am
Boris from Bay Ridge says:
I find it hard to believe that any licensed horticulturist or arborist would recommend cutting down all the mature trees because they are "not friendly to other types of plants and habitats." This is specious "reasoning" since there are literally hundreds of plants, bushes and shrubs that thrive in shade. NYC already is a massive concrete jungle, and destroying mature vegetative life to install more concrete (literally) is nauseating.
Oct. 11, 8:38 am
Jane from Crown Heights says:
Why is Brooklyn markedly cooler than Manhattan on a summer day? The ratio of concrete to shade trees is a big factor. And what else makes it easier to breath on those sullen summer days? The work those trees do in turning carbon dioxide into more oxygen for us to breath. I am fortunate to live near Prospect Park where I can stroll under a tall cool canopy, give my feet and my dog's paws a break from the hot, hard pavement and feel some relief. It is a bit of a walk to do so but it is always worth it. The Parks Department is wrong to take that experience away from the Fort Greene neighborhood. Less trees and more concrete is not what Brooklyn needs. Between the push for rezoning for 40 story buildings in residential areas and projects like this it seems some people have an interest in Brooklyn becoming more like Manhattan and that interest has more to do with money than the quality of life here.
Oct. 11, 9:26 am
Julia Lautard from Fort Greene says:
Scientists are crystal clear: Trees are out best weapon against catastropphic climate change. Knowing this, cutting down trees so a few can make a huge profit, is the equivalent of selling tobacco at a cancer clinic. This opaque plan is, at best, shameful.
Oct. 11, 10:07 am
Louise Lawler from Clinton Hill says:
I agree with this statement "What we don’t want is for our refuge to be replaced by a concrete grandiose entryway suitable only for commercial purposes and skateboarding. " There is plenty of commerce around the park. The park is a refuge. The trees are an important component to maintain and enjoy.
Oct. 11, 10:08 am
Viola Sororia from Flatbush says:
Trees do allow for other plants to grow underneath them. During a walk through the woods you'd see plants that thrive in the shade. Mature trees are also wonderful for soil erosion, shade provision, and wildlife habitat. A garden can easily be planted among the trees. And if erosion were truly a concern they'd get rid of turf lawn because water rolls right off it.
Oct. 11, 11:35 am
Viola Sororia from Flatbush says:
Trees do allow other plants to grow beneath. A walk in the woods would show wildflowers and ferns that do well on the forest floor, in the shade of trees. And mature trees provide erosion control, shade, wildlife habitat. A garden for pollinators could easily be planted without cutting anything down. As for erosion, the true culprit is turf lawn which is like macadam, water rolls right off it.
Oct. 11, 11:38 am
Erin from Clinton Hill says:
Brooklyn has precious few mature trees at this scale and concentration, so I would love a solution that maintains as many as possible. We have a lot of paved spaces (even at the top of these stairs) and a lot of immature street trees, so adding an additional plaza with small trees isn't adding a lot of value to the park. The scale and shade of these trees is precious.
Oct. 11, 12:16 pm
Virginia from Heights says:
Disgusting, not what anyone wants except someone aiming for a contract. NO ONE WANTS THIS.
Oct. 11, 2:58 pm

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