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The head of the Brooklyn Heights Association wants the city to shut down a pair of arborcidal waterfalls by Labor Day — just as the Public Arts Fund began giving local trees baths to save them from the displays’ dangerous mist.

“Our feeling is if you’ve seen the damage that’s occurred, why don’t you turn off the falls?” asked Executive Director Judy Stanton.

Since the installation of artist Olafur Eliasson’s four massive East River sprinklers, residents on the Brooklyn side have complained that salt contained in the contraptions’ mist is destroying leaves of nearby trees, and possibly killing them.

“I think it’s enough,” Stanton said. “They’re damaging the local environment and I don’t think it’s worth it to have this question remain: Will the trees come back?”

The spray is also affecting cars — River Café customers and Heights residents along Montague Terrace and Columbia Heights are having trouble getting rid of the oil residue and salt on their vehicles, said Stanton and River Café manager Scott Stamford.

“When people come to a restaurant, they have expectations of what they expect a reputation of 30 years in business to be,” Stamford said. “When they come and see the dead trees, it just sends the wrong message.”

Project organizers said this week that they are trying to fix the problem. Every morning, arborists from the Parks Department now rinse the trees and leaves along the Promenade and in the River Café’s garden with fresh water and flush salt from the soil.

“As soon as we saw that there was an issue, we responded right away,” said Rochelle Steiner the director of the Public Art Fund, which commissioned the NYC Waterfalls. “We’re really concentrating on getting the salt off the trees, off the leaves, and out of the soil. They’re basically getting a bath.”

Weather sensors attached to the waterfalls are supposed to shut off the water if there are sustained winds in one direction for at least 10 minutes, Steiner said. But Stamford said the waterfalls were still on during a heavy rain and wind storm two weeks ago.

The tree-bacle is also adding injury to Brooklynites’ original insult: the city promised the waterfalls would be viewable from many points in Brooklyn, but in reality, the project’s scaffolding and weak water streams look more like a giant Erector Set from the borough’s shores.

“I liked the idea of it — I really did,” Stanton said. “But frankly, I thought from the land side they’ve been a big disappointment … It’s prettier at night when the [scaffolding] disappears in the dark and the light picks up the water.”

Plus, Stanton added, “Ordinarily, public art doesn’t actually damage anything.”

The waterfalls — which are located under the Brooklyn Bridge, off Governor’s Island, at Pier Three along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and at Pier 35 in Manhattan along the FDR Drive — are set to be taken down on Oct. 13.

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Reader Feedback

anon says:
if the falls were not on columbia heights and montague terrace the Heights elite also known as the Brooklyn Heights Association would do nothing. Thsy did nothing when people we forced out of their homes on Henry St. and again on clark st. They like trees better than people
Aug. 27, 2008, 5:27 pm
Alex from Ft. Greene says:
These people need to relax. A look into this issue has already deemed that the trees will be fine. The falls will be gone next year and the new leaves will be just as new. Nothing will stop this year's deterioration, surely, but turnign off the falls early won't help the leaves grow back either. Nature will do its trick and these people just need to tell high society restaurants like River Cafe to stop barking and deal with ART. It's good for them.
Aug. 29, 2008, 11:39 am
Daniel from Flatbush says:
City officials are stepping in for rich restaurants instead of art that is good for millions of New Yorkers and tens of millions of tourists? Please, forgive us for not caring too much about the Mercedes and Jaguars that are parked outside River Cafe.
Aug. 29, 2008, 11:45 am
Rejin from Bed-Stuy says:
I am an artist, and I think that art should "do no harm". The waterfalls were not very viewable or interesting from the Brooklyn side, so it adds insult to injury to be sustaining damage on this side of the river for something that can be best viewed from the Circle Line.
Art is good for people, but so are trees.
Sept. 3, 2008, 7:31 am

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