Neighbors demand arborcide - Brooklyn Paper

Neighbors demand arborcide

Bill Horne, 85, says the White Birch in his neighbor’s yard has become a quality of life issue.
The Brooklyn Paper / Matthew Lysiak

While residents in Brooklyn Heights are trying to save a tree threatened by their co-op board, here in Bay Ridge, neighbors are looking to cut one down.

A White Birch — planted in the backyard at 1026 Bay Ridge Parkway some 30 years ago — has grown into a 60-foot monster whose shedding seeds have been wreaking havoc on gardens and ponds, and terrorizing residents for several years, at least according to neighbors who reside under its hefty shade.

“For years now I’ve been tolerating it, and tolerating it, and tolerating it, but now I am sick of it,” said 85-year-old resident Bill Horne. “Heck, I am not going to tolerate it anymore.”

The White Birch is known to arborists as an elegant tree with triangular leaves and bright creamy white bark. The tree’s mature fruit is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds that are carried by the wind — to the great consternation of nearby neighbors.

Horne says that the seeds have become such a nuisance that it has drastically altered his quality of life.

“I used to have a pond with some fish in it, but the seeds would fill the pond,” said Horne. “They hit me when I come out of my car, clog my drain when it rains, and you wouldn’t believe the sweeping I have to do.”

“It is an absolute nightmare,” added Horne.

Horne also believes that planting the white birch tree is illegal in Brooklyn, but calls to the Parks Department told a different story.

“Almost anything you plant on your private property we don’t take a position on,” said a Parks rep. “It would only be illegal if it was planted near the sidewalk.”

Planting a tree in the back yard is legal, but a resident would need a special permit to plant a tree in the grass between the sidewalk and the road, since that passes over public property, according to Parks.

Legal or not, neighbors want the tree to come down.

Another neighbor, who lives on the other side of the massive birch, has also been living under the tree’s ominous shade.

“It is a pain in the neck and a mess,” said Anne McClellan. “It sticks to everything and people don’t want to be outside.”

Making matters more complicated, the antagonizing tree is owned by none other than the president of the Bay Ridge Community Council, Bob Cassara.

Cassara, who was interrupted while on vacation with his family in Florida by The Brooklyn Paper to be questioned about his foliage, says his neighbors are barking up the wrong tree.

“I am well aware that two of my neighbors are unhappy about the tree seeds,” Cassara said. “If it is that much of an issue for them I am willing to cut the tree down, but I think it would only be fair if we each paid a third of the $1,000 it would cost.”

Horne thought the deal seemed, in a word, shady.

“Some deal for us,” said Horne. “He expects us to pay to have a tree removed that is on his property — that is crazy.”

Compromise may not be in full bloom, but that isn’t to say Cassara hasn’t tried to pass the olive branch.

Cassara added that he recently made an attempt to appease his neighbors by having the lower branches trimmed.

He also admits the seeds may be a bit of a nuisance, but believes the beauty of the tree more than compensates for the inconvenience.

“That tree is really something beautiful,” said Cassara. “There just aren’t many like that big White Birch.”

Over the past few weeks, neighbors in Brooklyn Heights have been trying to save an 80-year-old elm tree outside the Mansion House co-op on Hicks Street. The co-op board voted on July 18 to remove the tree rather then spend $8,000 to reroute electrical pipes tied up in its root system.

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