The city is raking it in.
A developer paid the parks department almost half a million dollars so that it could cut down a handful of elderly trees on public parkland that were standing in the way of a massive housing complex it is building on the Greenpoint waterfront.
The department said it is not in favor of felling mature foliage, but five trees at Newtown Barge Park — at the corner of Commercial and Dupont streets — were blocking the forthcoming Greenpoint Landing 10-tower mega-development, so it gave the real-estate company the green light to topple the topiary and slugged it with a $414,000 penalty for the privilege.
“While every option to preserve the five trees at Newtown Barge Park was explored, unfortunately their location and grade was not compatible with the planned developments,” said parks spokesman Ed Janoff.
Anyone who wants to cut down a tree on city-run property must acquire a permit and pay for the vegetation to be replaced. The city calculates the exact amount owed by measuring the width of the condemned trunk to figure out how many new saplings it will have to plant to replicate the towering flora, and also takes into account the tree’s condition, species, and location, Janoff said.
Two of the five trees developer Greenpoint Landing Associates wanted to axe were already dead, so the city let it ground them gratis, but determined that it would have to plant 286 new trees to make up for the loss of the other three, Janoff said.
The city says it will put the money into its tree kitty and plant the replacement vegetation somewhere nearby. Greenpoint is already getting an influx of fresh vegetation thanks to a $2-million “reforesting” project funded by settlement money oil giant ExxonMobil shelled out to compensate for the massive amount of oil it spilled into the Newtown Creek, so Janoff said the substitute saplings may instead sprout in Williamsburg.
“These new trees will be planted in Community District 1 and nearby neighborhoods in Brooklyn over the next few years, ensuring the next generation of urban greenery for this area,” said Janoff.
The tree-fee program is a lucrative operation for the city — it harvested $2.7 million from toppled timber in 2013, according to the New York Post.
The city is planning a $7-million makeover of Newtown Barge Park, of which Greenpoint Landing Associates is expected to kick in $5.5 million. But the parks department’s plans for the site, which include a baseball field and artificial turf, have angered local residents, who want a dog run and real grass.
News of the missing trees was first reported by the Greenpointers blog.
Greenpoint Landing Associates officials declined to comment.