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

City must axe Fort Greene Park trees to make way for new life: Park steward
Photo by Kevin Duggan

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.

The Parks Department plans to take down 83 trees in the Fort Greene green space to make way for a paved plaza.
NYC Parks

“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.

Fletcher said the city’s controversial plans to cut down 83 trees — including some 52 trees to make way for a new entrance at Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street — would allow for more shrubs, bushes, and other plants to grow around the replacement trees instead of just grass.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.