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January 5, 2012 / Brooklyn news / Park Slope / Meadows of Shame

Tree houses: Vagrants take residence in Prospect Park trees

The Brooklyn Paper
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A group of homeless people has turned the rotted-out trees in Prospect Park into their own Keebler Elf-style shanties, only they’re not making cookies — they’re destroying a delicate ecosystem, according to park watchdogs.

The tree people are using roughly a dozen trunks and branches on the east side of the lake near the Tennis Center for shelter and storage, protecting themselves and their possessions with cardboard, twigs and plastic bags. But they are leaving junk in the trunks and using the lake for washing and cooking, making a dirty lake dirtier, park advocate Anne-Katrin Titze claims.

“Everything left uncollected ends up in the lake,” said Titze, a wildlife rehabilitator and eagle-eyed bird watcher who has long criticized park maintenance. “[This] pollutes the already filthy watercourse.”

On a Saturday visit to the area by a Brooklyn Paper reporter, bedding, backpacks and cooking pans filled cubby holes in trees where one homeless man said he had taken up residence.

“Like my house?” asked Augusta Cabrerio as he gestured to one of the trees.

Titze said she has long urged park officials to remove the rotted trees, which she thinks are brittle and are a danger to park-goers.

Park officials did say that they boarded-up a rotting tree at the site last summer to keep it from collapsing .

Officials did not respond by press time to inquiries about whether the trees — or the people inside them — would be removed.

A Prospect Park Alliance spokesman said the agency works with the Department of Homeless Services to keep people from living in the park.

“We inspect the park on a regular basis to ensure no one is camping here,” said Prospect Park Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson. “However, it’s a big park and we cannot always find and remove every person.”

It’s not the first time park-goers discovered makeshift homes in wooded areas of the Prospect Park. Rangers booted a man from his six-foot-tall house of sticks — which looked plucked from the set of “Cast Away” — in March. Cops also busted two vagrants living near the lake after they allegedly trapped and ate ducks and squirrels in July.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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Reader Feedback

lou from w t says:
What delicate ecosystem? Parks Dep't already cut down all the shrubs and privets, making the park look barren. This was done to deter crime by removing hiding spots. These old trees are rotting, and should be replaced.
Jan. 5, 2012, 1:33 am
Chris from Windsor Terrace says:
“We inspect the park on a regular basis..."

The Alliance's definitions of "inspect" and "regular" must be different from everybody elses.

Sounds like the same old word games.

I bet, Prospect Park Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson would have a hard time finding Windsor Terrace.

“However, it’s a big park and we cannot always find and remove every person.”
Jan. 5, 2012, 7:08 am
trans alt from my bike says:
Leave the poor inhabitants of the park alone. It's not like they are driving cars, and polluting the air we breathe.
Jan. 5, 2012, 8:11 am
Pat from Park Slippery Slope says:
Boarding up rotting trees does not ensure the safety of the trees and park visitors. Branches snap unexpectantly as the tree continues to die.

This kind of tree care is an embarrassment and typical.
Jan. 5, 2012, 8:51 am
John from Prospect Heights says:
The woodlands are littered with decaying trees uprooting and breaking off by their virtually dead roots. Erosion everywhere and this is a persistent, chronic condition that is not being addressed.
Jan. 5, 2012, 9:58 am
Brooklyn Native from Brooklyn says:
To "trans alt from my bike" - Equating driving cars (bad!) to living in a public space (good) reads a lot better than the sense and logic it inherently lacks. I agree that there are too many cars, and as a result, too much air pollution. But how does living in the Park decrease the cars and the pollution? The squatters probably don't own cars, and living in the Park doesn't decrease their non-use of the vehicles.

The Park belongs to the public, and is managed for the public good. I'll make the quantum leap, and assume that "trans alt from my bike" may have assets aside from his bike. I think he should share his bike, and allow anyone needing transportation to use it - at all hours, with no restrictions, and with no compensation. Better still, if "trans alt from my bike" happens to live in an apartment or house, why not just let the Park squatters have a bit of his space?

I wonder whether he would then illogically conclude that with a squatter in his living room, car use and air pollution have been magically decreased.

Please - don't give away that which you don't own. Because if you believe you can, I've got the perfect person who'd love your bike.
Jan. 5, 2012, 10:21 am
Wretched writings says:
Please stop polluting the net with your worthless middle-class rants. If seeing the homeless at Prospect Park annoys you so much then return to the suburbs! This biased “article” is the poorest excuse for journalism, reminiscent of the writings one would find in some high school newspaper authored by some tween. Cleary a picturesque park with rotting trees is more important to you than human suffering. Discuss the real issues!
Jan. 5, 2012, 11:16 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
So Anne-Katrin Titze claims the homeless are upsetting a "delicate ecosystem" by washing in the lake, but at the same time wants the park service to remove the rotted trees? Quite a selective interpretation of "delicate ecosystem."
First, the water from said lake is city water, pumped into the park deliberately (ever take a tour of the park, Titze?), so it's not a natural ecosystem to begin with. It's artificial. It's fake. Anybody who washes in it is no more polluting the environment than she is by showering in her mansion.
Second, Prospect Park has been trying to restore the park to natural conditions for years, which effort includes letting trees rot because it's part of the natural life cycle of a forest. If Titze had ever been to the Audubon Center in the park she would have learned that rotting trees restore nutrients to the soil and also provide homes for creatures. So you could argue that if humans are part of nature then it's only natural for them to use rotted trees for shelter, and that it's Titze living in her brownstone who is doing more harm to the "delicate ecosystem."

I say leave the poor folks alone. If they dispose of their trash properly like other people in the park, who cares? Why hate them for existing and trying to survive?
Jan. 5, 2012, 11:53 am
Ralph from Kensington says:
Let's make Prospect Park a homeless shelter, good idea. And why not destroy more of the trees and the lake with barbecue coals, human excrement, and all the garbage that comes with having a park that provides almost no services, i.e. restrooms, garbage cans this time of the year.
Jan. 5, 2012, 12:28 pm
Dock Oscar from Grope Slope says:
"Keebler Elf–style shanties" just made my day!!!
I love this paper!
Jan. 5, 2012, 12:29 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I particularly liked "junk in the trunks."
Jan. 5, 2012, 12:43 pm
Kay from Park Slope says:
Let's all close our eyes and not see what's going on in front of us. Nothing's easier. Leave the homeless in the park. Leave the garbage there. Wait until one of them dies.
Jan. 5, 2012, 12:49 pm
prillis says:
seriously, this is as 'delicate' an ecosystem as my toilet. the park is completely man-made. let the bums have a home, let them eat the swans and turtles, let their humanure fertilize the trees.
Jan. 5, 2012, 1:04 pm
johnnyboy from windsor terrace says:
A tree house with a view is hard to come by, i wonder how much rent Ms Lloyd charges them.
Jan. 5, 2012, 1:40 pm
Jet Jones from Park SLope says:
The park is in fact not 100% man-made. Part of the park holds the only remaining part of the original Brooklyn Forest. Aside from the animals that call the park home year round, the park and Greenwood Cemetery are critical to thousands of migratory birds.
Contrary to some cynical comments, Prospect Park’s fragile eco system is worth preserving and deserves better care than it receives.
Jan. 5, 2012, 1:53 pm
prillis says:
original forest? olmsted left a patch of trees, which were then overtaken by weeds and exotics (most of which he introduced), and now the only original 'forest' is the urban legend in people's minds.

so, leave the bums alone.
Jan. 5, 2012, 2:11 pm
Catherine L. from Park Slope says:
Ecologically, rotting trees (safe when they are on the ground, of course) and snags are normal and help create a healthy ecosystem providing critical habitats to many species. The park watchdogs probably know that since they are rehabilitators.

However, having people cook up a squirrel stew within those snags is not a good thing.
Jan. 5, 2012, 2:41 pm
Fuzzbee from Prospect height says:
i am going say RIGJHT NOW these people are TOO HEAVY because elfs are small and only eating cookie and crackers all the time and the tree wont fall over from them!!! and elfs DONT POOP!!!! the people are homeless so why they think they can have a free house in the old tree around here all the time?!!!! what are they JERK? they thinking they 9 can make a good cookie? they dont care about cookys! they should GET OUTOF THERE NOW!!! it is too dangerous and a big racoon can infect them and then they have no kids not NEVER! the parks men should make the roted trees fall then make beds with doors and toilet for them too. and a starbuck cooffe should open up there with internet so they can look for homes!!! and sit on a log. and then they can use the restring rooms too.
Jan. 5, 2012, 4:12 pm
Grant from Windsor Terrace says:
Large rotting trees barely remaining upright with all the broken and rotting branches are easily found at the lake. If you need directions, ask one of the tree people to guide you. They are easier to find than a bathroom in the park.
Jan. 5, 2012, 4:16 pm
prillis says:
fuzzbee, you've been reading too many textsfrombennett, but miss the mark. give it up.
Jan. 5, 2012, 4:25 pm
K. from ArKady says:
If you are boarding up old decaying trees in the fall, do you then plant new apartment complexes in the spring?

Also, as pointed out above, old stumps are habitat for any number of wild creatures depending on the locale, which in this case is Mr. Cabrerio. He looks to be an invasive species and not native from the picture. Have any of the local wildlife watchers noted migratory activity from Mr. Cabrerio? A mate or young?
Jan. 5, 2012, 4:41 pm
Bay Ridger from Bay Ridge says:
The lastest form of low-cost housing. And, without Ratner having anything to do with it.
Jan. 5, 2012, 4:57 pm
jinx from bk says:
the park slope groper lives in one of those, beware all yee who treads there
Jan. 5, 2012, 5:50 pm
Tony from Park Slope says:
Maybe the editors should look up the term "vagrant":

a : one who has no established residence and wanders idly from place to place without lawful or visible means of support

b : one (as a prostitute or drunkard) whose conduct constitutes statutory

These people are homeless not vagrants. Your headline suggests that these are lawless threats.

I live in Park Slope, which has become invested with yuppie scum and their trophy babies, which seem like props so they can show off their Rolls Royce stroller. These filthy, avaricious pigs represent more of a threat to typical Americans that your so-called vagrants.

If the city suggested opening a shelter in their community you can be sure that it would be met with furious, hysterical opposition. Apparently these high-nosed corporate whores think Prospect Park is their own private yard. The general attitude in that neighborhood is a good reason why it has one of the highest crime rates in the city. They have luxury problems, while others are genuinely suffering.
Jan. 5, 2012, 6:40 pm
Charles from Sunset says:
VAGRANTS VAGRANTS VAGRANTS - let's here it for VAGRANTS! VAGRANT RIGHTS!
Jan. 5, 2012, 7:06 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
prospect park is a dump. it has been allowed to become a dump by the city and the management the city puts in charge to keep it a dump and BBQ haven..it is kept filty and run down.

could you imagine central park run like prospect park..
it's a discrace.
Jan. 5, 2012, 8:52 pm
gandal from Old Tree# 43,P. Park says:
I'm the gandal the groper, but I've taken a New Years
vow to only hug trees again, so don't worry-
except maybe when you cross that bridge north of the lake in the evening-I may be underneath urinating...or if i see some hot porn my cell phone in the "greenwood heights" area it might be a different kind of hugging...
I leave the fish alone though...

Jan. 6, 2012, 12:47 am
Winston Smith from Poop Slope says:
This really shows that the people who are supposed to be protecting Prospect Park are not getting out of their cars very much.
Jan. 6, 2012, 6:54 am
Kat from Brooklyn says:
NY POLICE State...no jobs to pay rent or mortgage..no place to shelter independently...NYC shelters are their new concentration camps.. sounds familiar? People please wake up and see what they are up to, right before your eyes..
Jan. 6, 2012, 7:35 am
Fuzzbee from Prospect height says:
and you hab bean watching too much . all the time!
Jan. 7, 2012, 12:49 pm
Fuzzbee from Prospect height says:
***"i am a prillis and my name is BIG JERK!!!" . all the time. !!!???$$$%%%= {
Jan. 7, 2012, 12:51 pm
Queen of the Click from Bay Ridge says:


It's amazing that the Brooklyn Paper put this on the first page of the paper? Isn't there any real news happening in Brooklyn?

When the geese were being taken and killed, the Brooklyn Paper were humanitarians:

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/13/all_opedhandsanti_2011_4_1_bk.html

Now homeless people are VAGRANTS and the Brooklyn's paper prompted the park to put them out and take all of their items away from them. See here:

http://parkslope.patch.com/articles/homeless-tree-dwellers-booted-out-of-prospect-park

Some people are having a hard time getting by in their economy.I think Natalie O'Neil should have a little more compassion and understanding when writing an article about the homeless. All of these people lost their 'only home' and possessions because O'Neil felt this was newsworthy.
Jan. 8, 2012, 10:15 am
Susan M from Westchester, NY says:
People want their freedom. Without power, we were told where I live to go to a High School gym with 500 cots lined up two feet apart. Right now I think I'll take my chances in the cold and dark. At least it's my own space. They ate the ducks and squirrels? I think they are resourceful. Please don't put ducks and squirrels, and trees for that matter before human beings. Don't get me wrong. These people need help, more in the mental health area, but they don't want to be herded into a shelter where they are told every minute what they can and cannot do, when to eat, when to wash, when to talk and when to sleep. That's a nightmare I hope I don't have to experience. All of you out there who are crying about the flora and fauna of Prospect Park should be thanking God for the luxury of shelter and food they have and they are not in a shelter for the long term.
Nov. 4, 2012, 8:42 pm

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