Did Sandy take down a tree planted by Geraldo Riveria?

Sandy’s arboricide: Kate Zidar, founder of the North Brooklyn Compost Project, mourns the “Geraldo Tree,” as it is known to park afficianados.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

McCarren Park’s beloved arbor monuments are falling down left and right, say park-goers who claim a tree believed to be planted by television news icon Geraldo Rivera met its match when Hurricane Sandy blew through North Brooklyn.

But was it really planted by the famously mustachioed news man? Our experts say “no.”

“I think I would have remembered that,” said former Brooklyn Paper reporter Aaron Short, who was on the McCarren Park beat. “Then again, I only covered it for about five years. You should probably ask Stephanie, or maybe Evan.”

Short was not clear on who he was suggesting we call, but when we pointed out that he has covered the park longer than anyone in history, he agreed that he likely was the right person to ask.

Adding to the confusion, the website DNAinfo.com’s report on the “Geraldo Tree” includes a slideshow that identifies two different downed timbers as the one allegedly planted by the man who found nothing inside Al Capone’s vault except for a few empty bathtub gin bottles during a live broadcast in the 1980s.

Calls to Rivera for comment were not returned.

Either way, the blue spruce situated between the green gnome garden, the compost pile, and the dog run now joins the park’s most-famous hardwood — the so-called “vagina tree,” which fell during Hurricane Irene — on a list of perennial plants toppled by autumn super storms.

“Geraldo Tree” huggers say Hurricane Sandy ripped their beloved arbor right out of the ground.

“It came up by its roots,” said Kate Zidar, founder of the North Brooklyn Compost Project and director of the Newtown Creek Alliance. “There’s nothing left in the ground.”

According to local legend, Rivera planted the tree in the late 1980s or 1990s when he decided to exercise his green thumb in his hometown borough.

Regardless of whether the Geraldo rumor is true, the tree that bears his name held a special place in the heart of park aficionados: neighborhood residents often trimmed the tree for Christmas. It also served as the meeting point on park stewardship days.

Two weeks after the storm, the Parks Department has finally gotten around to chopping up the fallen spruce, Zidar said — a move that’s providing park lovers a major opportunity.

“There’s been talk of harvesting the wood, maybe making it into a bench or some type of seating,” said Zidar, who has already been in contact with woodworkers. “The Parks Department is pretty stretched thin, so we’re trying to get the resources to do it ourselves.”

Kurt Cavanaugh, interim director at the Open Space Alliance, thinks making something out of the Geraldo Tree is a great idea.

“I would love to see it honored,” he said. “Maybe use it as a bench in the dog run. It should be reused.”

Legend has it that Geraldo Rivera planted the “Geraldo Tree” in the late 1980s or 1990s when he decided to exercise his green thumb in his hometown borough.
AP / Richard Drew

More from Around New York