Brooklyn Heights is beautiful. The well-preserved buildings, small shops, brick and stone and stained glass — all of it. But sometimes, even in this neighborhood, a woman has to fight to save a piece of history.
For 10 years, Andrea Demetropoulos-Marcolini has been taking care of her own little part of Heights history — an 80-year-old American Elm tree on Hicks Street that is suddenly facing the ax.
How could that be? Brooklyn Heights is a historically protected neighborhood! Buildings can’t just knock over anything they please, right?
Wrong. Demetropoulos-Marcolini isn’t trying to save isn’t a church or a brownstone — that would be easy. Instead, the American elm in the front garden of 145 Hicks St. could get cut down rather than force the building’s co-op board to reroute a ConEd electrical conduit pipe that the tree’s roots seem to be messing with.
To Demetropoulos-Marcolini, the problem is black and white — or maybe in this case, green and brown.
“We’re lucky to even have this tree,” said Demetropoulos-Marcolini, a horticulturist who also runs the Tailored Pet on Pineapple Walk. “Cutting it down will change the character of the street.”
This tree is enormous, arching up from where it’s planted in the building’s courtyard, with branches that reach clear across the street. When it’s in bloom, the leaves create a cool, shady canopy. Cutting it down would leave a noticeable hole in the sky.
But it’s not just that the tree is pretty or old, or even rare — American elm trees have been wiped out by the millions by Dutch elm disease and resistant trees are one in 100,000 — that makes it worth saving.
This is about what preserving the character and history of Brooklyn Heights really means. This living piece of history deserves just as much consideration as an old brick building.
Residents like Demetropoulos-Marcolini have spent a lot of time making sure the tree is taken care of, that insects are controlled, and that its branches were pruned and cabled away from the street. So if there’s another solution to the building’s problem, why not take it?
“People don’t seem to have a regard for history anymore,” said Demetropoulos-Marcolini.
It’s a sad sign of the times when someone could say such a thing about Brooklyn Heights.
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