In a decade, a freshly renovated Brooklyn Heights park could be a tree graveyard, according to an arborist who has charged that a Parks Department contractor has irreparably damaged scores of stately London plane trees in Cadman Plaza Park.
Naomi Zurcher, the certified arborist, contends that during the $2.9-million overhaul of the park — which included the placement of controversial fake grass to cover over a former dustbowl — the contractor has run roughshod over the trees.
“Most root activity is in the upper 18 inches of soil,” explained Zurcher. “So, when you drive heavy construction equipment over the soil, you compact it to a degree that there is no more oxygen and the roots cannot exist.”
Zurcher said the arbor damage didn’t stop there.
“The contractor planted other woody plant material — yew shrubs — right up against the trunks of the London plane trees,” which further sapped the tree roots’ ability to absorb nutrients, said Zurcher.
The Parks Department conceded that the contractor made mistakes, but disputed Zurcher’s claim that the damage was severe.
“We did observe equipment being driven over saturated soil,” said Phil Abramson, an agency spokesman. “However, numerous forestry inspections revealed that the trees fortunately did not suffer from any damage.”
Abramson added that the contractor has been asked to move the yew shrubs away from the tree roots.
Who’s right about the arbor damage? We won’t know for almost a decade.
“The damage won’t show for another eight to 10 years,” said Zurcher. “The canopy will grow thin, and you might see a die-back of branches.”
Then again, by then, the trees will most likely have been replaced by rubber, tree-like contraptions — more durable than real trees, and cheaper to maintain.