Taking Parks to the bench: Ft. Greeners file suit to stall their meadow’s makeover after officials’ tree untruths

Parks' plan: Fort Greene Park's corner near Myrtle Avenue and Saint Edwards Street will look like this if the green-space agency's redesign moves forward as planned.
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They’re leaf-ing it in a judge’s hands.

A group of Fort Greeners is taking the Department of Parks and Recreation to court after officials fibbed about the health of dozens of trees they want to chop down in Fort Greene Park to make way for their controversial makeover of a swath of the green space.

“We found so much misinformation coming from the Parks Department,” said Sandy Reiburn, a member of anti-redesign group Friends of Fort Greene Park, which filed the lawsuit last month. “It is basically cutting down healthy trees for the purpose of a redesign — what other funny business is going on?”

Last year, agency leaders claimed the trees in question wouldn’t survive for much longer while trying to gain support for their plan to refashion a corner of the meadow near Myrtle Avenue and Saint Edwards Street, prompting Reiburn and a fellow friend of the park to request a report by city-hired arborists on the status of the plants — which the locals said showed the trees were perfectly healthy after they received the study via a Freedom of Information Law request.

And after uncovering that untruth, the friends of the park began to wonder what the agency withheld from another redesign-related report on the park’s history and current condition, which arrived heavily redacted after the group submitted another foil request for that document, according to their lawyer.

“Nothing makes anyone more curious than being told that you can’t see something,” said Michael Gruen. “It’s a good report, very thorough and objective — I’m talking what we can see of it — and it is hard to imagine on what basis they removed large sections.”

Gruen on April 20 submitted an Article 78 appeal — a legal motion that challenges decisions made by city or state agencies — to a Supreme Court judge in Manhattan, demanding officials fork over the entire contents of the redacted report that landscape architects prepared in 2015 as the Parks Department planned the makeover of Fort Greene Park, which calls for axing the mostly healthy trees and leveling some decades-old hilly mounds in order to install an open pedestrian plaza leading from the street to the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument.

The judge will decide whether the agency must fork over the full study in the next few weeks, according to Gruen, who said the ruling will determine whether the friends of the park will proceed with a more robust lawsuit to stop the redesign in its tracks.

“Right now we have a case that can be decided quite quickly,” he said. “I hope that will tell us more, and if it’s necessary to do a suit over the actual project.”

And even if the current court case can’t upend the entire $10.5-million makeover — which is set to begin next year after being okayed by both the local community board and Landmarks Preservation Commission — its outcome could still lead Parks Department officials to reconsider axing the healthy trees, according to Reiburn.

“Maybe this will slow them down to come up with a reasonable compromise where the trees remain viable,” she said.

Earlier this month, another New York State court ruled in favor of journalists’ Article 78 suit against the city, granting them access to Mayor DeBlasio’s e-mails with a bigwig at a powerful consulting firm after the reporters argued the documents were necessary to determine what, if any, influence the man held over Hizzoner’s decisions while in office.

A Parks Department spokeswoman declined requests for comment, citing a policy not to discuss pending litigation.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:44 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Morris from Mill Basin says:
I have been in Florida visiting relatives for the past week.
May 10, 2018, 10:13 am
Elena from Windsor Terrace says:
A real landscape architect would have celebrated the existing trees. The City is being flooded with vanity hobbyists.
May 10, 2018, 10:43 am
Corey from Clinton Hill says:
Do not cut down beautiful healthy trees for this egotistical unnecessary park redesign!
May 10, 2018, 12:03 pm
BrooklynGersh from The WT says:
I'm neutral when it comes to the actual plan, but we should never forget that that portion of the park simply does not work for residents as it is currently designed.

May 10, 2018, 12:19 pm
Andreas from Fort Greene says:
I like it the way it is. The trees protect the park from the street. It makes that part of the park a nice oasis. Carving a big promenade there changes everything. Yeah maybe it'll be nicer for the people driving up Myrtle to see the monument but it's not about them, is it?

Leave as many trees as possible. The shady steps are a pleasure to sit on and exercise on, enjoyed by locals. All that changes with this vanity project.
May 10, 2018, 12:47 pm
Roger from Clinton Hill says:
The redesign is a terrible and wasteful idea. Leave the park as is. Those trees are homes for many birds and other animals. Not only that, the trees contribute to the cleansing of our air.
May 10, 2018, 12:54 pm
Historic Brooklyn from Fort Greene says:
The politicians need a huge spot for children after school. Instead of giving away airspace, create city rec centers for after schools in existing city- owned properties like for instance the armory.

These children after school need a space to unwind and have an equal chance at becoming good people, or at least try it.

Trees were planted in Ft. Greene to be a healthy outlet on weekends ahter a hard weeks work.

For the person who says its not enough, what is it with this, it cant remain? Those trees were there since the park was created. The history, destruction of trees into an ugly concrete plaza will totally destroy the the existence of why the park is there.

Is it Citymanagers no longer care about any remnants of nature? Whats happening to r3spect of nature?

It all comes down to nothin* but greed, the greed, the greed.
May 10, 2018, 9:02 pm
lk from Fort Greene says:
While NYCHA residents across the street who heavily use this park suffer for lack of money for heat and repairs, the Parks Dept plans to spend millions of dollars for a redesign that is not wanted by park users. If they concentrated on the much needed repairs and maintenance that they have neglected for years they would be praised instead of being condemned and ridiculed for the nonsensical idea that the monument must be seen from the street 12 months a year.

The Parks Dept lied repeatedly to the community about the condition of the trees and without citizen action through FOIL they never would have revealed the truth.

What kind of sadist removes life saving large trees from a community that suffers from high asthma rates?
May 10, 2018, 10:32 pm
Cerisse from Clinton Hill says:
The Parks Dept doesn't want to come in second to the Dept of Transportation in wasting money on unwanted and unjustifiable projects. Why shouldn't the Parks dept throw away $10 million on this stupid design that kills trees? The DOT cut trees and hasn't finished blowing money on the ridiculous Fowler plaza, which has cost over $5 million. For that they give us some new planters and umbrellas and potted sedums.
May 10, 2018, 10:41 pm
Something wrong w/Parks Dept from Wherever trees should thrive says:
The Parks Dept which are supposed to be the stewards of the Park are instead the lackeys of the luxury developers next to Fort Greene Park per the Mayor...after all it is they -not the NYCHA residents across the street- who are his influential pals. Listen to what the Ingersoll and Whitman Public Housing park users have to say on youtube - Fort Greene Park Redesign
May 11, 2018, 7:56 am
I.M.Squirrel from 3rd Norway Maple on the right says:
Parks Dept Commissioners Silver and Maher...How could you do this to me and my family member squirrels? You are heartless!
May 11, 2018, 8:13 am
Mustache Pete from Windsor Terrace says:
Has anyone noticed that Maher looks uncomfortable and speaks in a very ill-prepared manner at public meetings? I suspect he knows what Parks is being pressured to do, doesn't believe what he's saying, and this isn't why he's in public service. I'm not forgiving anyone. I'm just saying Parks didn't decide this in a vacuum. The developers pressure the Mayor, Cumbo, etc. and everyone knows what rolls downhill.
May 11, 2018, 9:08 am
Keisha from Ft Greene says:
Comm Maher is a real person and good guy. He truly loves the outdoors, including trees. Parks W/O Borders is not his doing, it's the fruity Mitch Silver's. Pete here is right that Maher is unable to fake it when he has to defend the killing of trees in FGP. Maher has to toe the Mitchell Silver line. Unfortunately it has forced him to have to lie about the health of the trees in order not to be sacked by Silver.
May 11, 2018, 6:50 pm
Tree-Hugger from Fort Greene says:
When repeatedly asked for the forestry report for the trees, Maher said he did not know if one existed.That is hard to believe but he simply could have said he would find out and make it available. Of course, they did not want to make it available as it showed the lies. No information was on the website about the park plans, no design, no forestry report. Maher had reason to look uncomfortable as he did Silver's bidding of lying about the condition of the trees repeatedly saying that some trees are at the end of the life-cycle and referring to some trees as not worthwhile and the nonsensical repeated statement by Maher and Silver that Norway Maples that have been in place for at least 50 years as an invasive species that have been outlawed in several states. Clearly, there is no invasion going on at Myrtle Avenue.
May 12, 2018, 9:51 am
Old time Brooklyn from Slope says:
Keep the tre s - you will be better off
May 15, 2018, 11:43 am

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