The Geraldo tree lives again.
Six months after a tree planted by television’s Geraldo Rivera was ripped from the ground by Hurricane Sandy, the Fox news star returned to his boyhood neighborhood to plant a new spruce.
Rivera donated $1,800 to the city’s Million Trees NYC program to cover the cost of planting a replacement tree in the same spot, near the dog run at McCarren Park.
“When I heard this tree in my homeboy park had fallen and that the kids were devastated by its demise, I couldn’t wait to get it back up and get it growing,” said Rivera, before he shoveled soil around the base of the evergreen.
The blue spruce fell during Hurricane Sandy, and tree aficionados lamented the death of what was known to a few as the “Geraldo tree.” But no one could prove for sure that Rivera was truly involved in the planting of that tree.
It turns out that he was.
Rivera said that he donated the money and planted the first tree sometime in the early 1990s, just as the city was reviving the park — one he said was a place you didn’t want to visit when he was a kid.
“Williamsburg has changed so much for the better,” said Rivera, 69. “McCarren Park was such a wasteland for much of my young adulthood. You wouldn’t dare walk in here.”
That was before the Parks Department started its arboreal program. Since 2007, the city claims it has planted more than 700,000 trees, including more than 144,000 in Brooklyn.
Born in Manhattan in 1943, Rivera and his parents moved to Marcy Avenue a year later. He attended PS 19 before moving to Long Island when he was in the fourth grade. He moved back to the borough to attend Brooklyn Law School. Currently, he hosts “Geraldo At Large,” a newsmagazine show on Fox, and hosts a radio talk show on WABC-AM. He once held the collective attention of the American public for several hours as he opened a vault that allegedly belonged to Al Capone. It turned out nothing was in it, and he famously sang “Chicago” to end the show.
Open Space Alliance head Ed Janoff said he was happy that Rivera stepped forward to replace the tree in an area of the park where lots of people congregate.
“Between the dog run and the farmer’s market, this is a very special spot and families like to come here,” said Janoff. “This tree is the focal point of this family destination.”
The five-year-old spruce, which is in a courtyard near the dog run, will likely have a long life ahead of it.
“This tree will grow up to a foot a year, and could be up to 40 feet tall,” said James Kaechele, development manager at NY Tree Trust. “Even at the five-year mark, it will be pretty impressive.”
Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.