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Bobby's Department Store won't get fined for paving over tree pits

Bobby's Department Store is getting away with aborcide, neighbors say

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The city is treating Bobby’s Department Store with kid gloves, claim outraged neighbors who are slamming the Parks Department for not fining the store for systematically killing all the greenery around the Church Avenue shop — then cementing over the tree pits to prevent more trees from being put in.

The Parks Department removed two locust trees from in front of Bobby’s back in May — a move that coincided with the building of an extension to department store, residents say, adding that the city didn’t bat an eye when Bobby’s Department Store workers cemented over the tree pits — guaranteeing that nothing would grow in front of the store in the near future.

“Bobby’s new big entrance shows why the trees had to go: they were in the way,” said Ditmas Park resident Nathan Thompson, who accused Bobby’s workers of calling the Parks Department and reporting that the trees were dying and needed to be removed, even though they were perfectly healthy. “Even the workers [doing construction] that I talked to on the site admitted the convenience of the coincidence.”

The city claimed that it removed the trees because they were “in decline,” even though no disease or damage was noted in the report.

The Parks Department claims that it will not fine Bobby’s Department Store for cementing over the tree pits — the agency will simply rip up the sidewalk when they decide to put new trees on Church Avenue in the next 24 months.

“When Parks plants again at this location, we will make new pits there,” said Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, who would not say why the city didn’t fine Bobby’s Department Store for sealing up the tree pits.

Residents say they are furious at the department store, claiming that the business has set back efforts to beautify the bustling but neglected commercial strip. “The removal of two locust trees from the strip in front of Bobby’s has created an eyesore for the neighborho­od,” said resident Barden Prisant. “There is room along that block for no fewer than five new trees. If these could be planted, it would at least help break up the visual impact of the crowds which invariably form in front of the store. I would ask that Bobby’s spearhead the effort to have those pits dug and new trees planted.”

A manager at Bobby’s Department Store said that it never pulled out the trees — the city did. The tree pits were sealed up so no one would trip and fall, the manager explained, refusing to comment further.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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