Tree’s removal cuts deep: Botanic Garden members cry foul over plan to replace old plant with young sapling

Chopped: Some Brooklyn Botanic Garden members criticized the green space’s staff of agism upon learning they chopped down this stately London plane for a younger sapling.
Brooklyn Paper
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They’re bark-ing mad!

Some Brooklyn Botanic Garden fans blasted its staff for recently chopping down a stately old London plane tree in favor of a younger plant, claiming the green thumbs’ switcheroo reeks of arboreal ageism.

“This is ageist,” said Andrew Porter, a garden member who lives in Brooklyn Heights. “There’s a lot of old stuff there that people really like. If you tear down that stuff, it’s the same thing as saying, ‘There’s a 62-year-old guy working for this company, and we can replace him with someone who’s 23.’ ”

The tree grew among some of the park’s conifers, a collection of seed-bearing species that includes pines, junipers, and other plants, and stood just outside its Fragrance Garden, where green-space stewards encourage patrons to touch the flora.

Younger visitors in particular flocked to the mature specimen, because it boasted a cavernous hollow in its trunk where they could escape from mom, dad, or other full-sized chaperones, according to Porter.

“The hollow made it special, because kids could get in and adults couldn’t,” he said.

But the crevice also made the tree hazardous, arborists concluded last fall after an assessment showed the opening in its trunk made it susceptible to collapse, a garden spokeswoman said, and staff began work to remove the plant this spring by chopping off its upper branches.

“This particular one, the base was hollow and was not able to support the canopy,” said Elizabeth Reina-Longoria, who did not immediately respond when asked for the tree’s age.

And although it stood near public areas of the green space, the ancient London plane was behind a roped-off part of the garden where pedestrians of any age shouldn’t wander, according to Reina-Longoria, who said confusion over the tree’s location likely inspired the outpouring of concern from members — which prompted garden bigwigs to send not one, but two separate e-mails explaining why it allegedly had to get the axe.

“Some folks thought it was a tree house, but it never served that purpose,” she said. “It’s on a steep slope, I think there might be confusion about what the tree was.”

Plus, London planes are not that interesting, the spokeswoman argued, and Brooklynites don’t have to pay the garden’s $15 admission fee to see one — they can simply walk down a street or visit parkland across the city.

“They’re very, very common,” she said.

The tree’s stump is still rooted in Kings County’s horticultural reserve, but workers will uproot it sometime in the coming weeks, ahead of the London plane’s replacement by a more exotic — younger — specimen, according to Reina-Longoria.

“A new conifer tree will be placed there that will diversify our collection,” she said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:13 pm, July 25, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

You Can't Win from Brooklyn Heights says:
If they did not cut the tree down and, as a consequence, a branch fell and hurt a visitor -- as happened in Central Park -- they probably would have been sued for negligence. I think that the critics here need to take a chill pill.
July 25, 2018, 7:20 am
Concerned ex-member from Southern Brooklyn says:
"the ancient London plane was behind a roped-off part of the garden where pedestrians of any age shouldn’t wander"

There are much more significant changes that have taken place in the garden under the new administration in recent years, which deserve more attention and concern than this, which seem to have drawn little, if any attention.

For example, increasing areas of the BBG have been cordoned off. Whereas in the past, one was able to go right up to many plants, to feel and study them up close, which is part of botanical education, a core mission of the garden as set forth by its early leader Dr. Stuart Gager, now that is difficult or impossible in many cases. Shameful.
July 25, 2018, 7:21 am
Jean from Bay Ridge says:
How about the inaccessibility of the Native Plant Garden and the path from the visitor's center to the Japanese Garden?
July 25, 2018, 11:04 am
Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
Yes, those are my photos, and I was quoted. The extensive closings in the BBG have upset many. And, although the schedule calls for specific dates for several projects to be finished, people I have spoken to who work at the BBG take those with a large grain of salt.

Those with longer memories can recall how the finish dates for the new Herb Garden and the Native Flora Garden were pushed back by many months because of errors and problems in their construction—for instance, the first set of already laid concrete pathways in the new Herb Garden had to be jackhammered up because or errors.

Then there is the error in the construction of the new Visitor's Center: when the doors on the men's room are opened for entry or cleaning, the two urinals are reflected in the mirrors over the wash basins and are in plain sight of passers-by.

One hopes that such errors will not result in delays to current construction schedules.
July 25, 2018, 12:34 pm
Moshe Aron Kestenbaum ODA from Williamsburg says:
I will say a Kaddish this afternoon at 3 In front of the chopped down tree , who ever chops down a tree is not to be trusted with life , this is going to be the second time I say kadosh in PP the first was for the murdered foul
July 26, 2018, 6:23 am
Tyler from pps says:
Whoever chops down a tree is not to be trusted with life?

Yeah, ok.
July 26, 2018, 9:24 am
Naomi Zurcher from Brooklyn Heights says:
Opinion of an Urban Forester, a Consulting Arborist and an ex BBG member.

This is what happens when you corporatize Botanical Garden management. Since this LP was in a cordoned off area, there was no risk to Garden visitors. Looking at the wood, there don't seem to have been a condition issue.

Given the need to maintain mature trees if, for no other reason, to provide the essential Ecosystem Services (ES) benefits critical to human well-being and quality-of-life, it's a pretty poor management decision. Using diversity as an excuse to remove a seemingly healthy mature tree that's delivering ES benefits doesn't serve the tree population or human needs. And, it doesn't serve biodiversity either!!!

Yet another very poor, environmentally unsound decision brought to you by the Corporatized management of BBG.

Very sad, indeed!!!
July 27, 2018, 10:59 am
Carsten W Glaeser from Around Brooklyn Neighborhoods says:
With so much scientific literature available informing us of the need to protect and preserve large rare urban trees, the deliberate removal of a seemingly non-decayed (and thereby low-risk) mature shade tree out and away from any soft or hard targets suggests misguided decision making by BBG administrators and bean counters of an invaluable and irreplaceable public resource and asset.

But we have seen this disregard for the care and preservation of large beneficial tree assets before. We are reminded of the infamous veteran Gingko biloba $100,000 transplanting operation years ago at the BBG Washington Av entrance. That tree was deprived of essential although simple post transplanting care for years, when administration decided that the capital construction folk (those so savvy and skilled about tree care) proceeded to kill it. It has never fully recovered from the neglect. Leave the arboricultural experts to the tree care and preservation decision making.
July 27, 2018, 3:45 pm
Tree Lover from Bay Ridge says:
I hate to see a tree cut down too, but the giant hollow in the trunk is clearly visible in the photo. There was one on my block like that, the city inspected it and said it wasn't dangerous, a decade or so later the cavity was even bigger and it was cut down. Also a London plane, which, as the story says, are extremely numerous in the city. Every storm lately produces branches down all over the neighborhood. They are aging.
July 28, 2018, 11:08 pm

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