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Death of recent saplings doesn’t stop Parks from planting more

Death of recent saplings doesn’t stop Parks from planting more
Treemagedon: Locals say the city should stop planting trees in southern Brooklyn’s salt-laced soil, and that too many trees have already suffered as a result of Hurricane Sandy. This young sapling was planted by the Parks Department along Avenue Y between E. 16th and E. 17th streets, but died soon after in the tainted dirt.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The Parks Department is sentencing countless innocent saplings to death.

The city is planting young trees across Southern Brooklyn in salt-tainted soil that is already killing off healthy older trees, and Parks continues to send the blameless plants to their doom even as earlier victims wither nearby, says a Sheepshead Bay woman who witnessed the mass arborcide.

Parks workers earlier this month planted a row of hapless saplings along the northern side of Avenue Y between E. 16th and E. 17th streets, but the trees quickly withered, according to Alice Coyle, a 48-year resident of Sheepshead Bay.

“There’s no question,” said Coyle, “they’re dead.”

By the time the city began planting trees along the block’s southern side, the trees lining the north side were already dead or dying, said Coyle.

“They were still planting, when they could look across the street and see the trees on the other side were dead,” she said. “It didn’t make any sense to me.”

Carl Cahill of Evergreen Tree Experts blamed the deadly tree epidemic sweeping Kings County on foliage-killing the salt that was swept in by Hurricane Sandy’s massive tidal surge. The salt draws water from of the plant’s root system, choking off the leaves from essential moisture

“The root systems are full of salt, and now that it’s hot they’re all just drying out in the sun,” he said.

Despite reports of trees dying in droves throughout the borough, the Parks Department said it wouldn’t be able to draw any conclusions regarding their supposed “dooming” of the trees until later this year.

“We will not be able to get a true picture of the tree and plant mortality caused by Hurricane Sandy until late summer or early fall, when we can observe their behavior throughout the growing season,” said a Parks spokeswoman.

The agency is, however, aware of the salty menace and attempting to cure the soil through the use of gardeners’ tricks.

“We have been and will continue to remediate soil, as necessary, with compost and gypsum — both mitigate salt damage — to encourage the return of healthy biological functioning,” said the spokeswoman.

Despite the salty menace, the Parks Department plans to continue planting trees during the second planting season in October, although the agency wouldn’t say how many trees it expects to plant.

Coyle can’t see the sense in planting trees if they’re just going to die.

“The amount of trees that aren’t making it through, it doesn’t make sense to keep planting them until they figure out if they keep dying,” she said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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