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Cut down: Brooklyn Botanic Garden fires arborist for trying to save trees, former garden worker claims

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He tried to save a tree — so they gave him the ax.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden fired one of its arborists for trying to thwart park brass in their scheme to destroy a beloved tree at the world-class plant preserve, according to a former garden worker and friend of the fired tree expert.

“One of the arborists at Brooklyn Botanic Garden was indeed fired for his activism,” said LaShaun Ellis, who formerly performed seasonal work at the garden as a teacher.

Leadership at the horticultural museum unceremoniously dumped tree surgeon Alec Baxt on July 31 after eight years with the garden, according to a fellow arborist, who described his former colleague as a first-rate green thumb in a Facebook post announcing the firing.

“Alec is among most honest, hard-working, and ethical people you could meet,” Christopher Roddick wrote on social media on July 31.

The canned arborist had a reputation for butting heads with Botanic Garden honchos whenever it came to chopping down a good tree, and he once secretly nominated a 93-foot-tall post oak tree on the premises to the state’s Big Tree Register to prevent the garden from felling it to make way for a service road in 2017, Ellis said.

“He was able to register it and save the tree,” she said.

More recently, Baxt was involved in an effort to publicize the garden’s plan to chop down a beloved London plane tree that stood nearby some of the park’s conifer collection, and helped manage a social-media account for the tree in an effort to rile up members of the garden, according to Ellis.

“He was letting people know that this tree was in danger, and trying to mobilize them,” she said.

In fact, Baxt and his cohorts fought so hard to preserve the tree, that Ellis claims garden president Scot Medbury hired an outside contractor to chop it down behind the tree surgeons’ backs.

“Scot Medbury hired a contractor to cut the tree down while the arborists were eating lunch,” she said.

Ellis’s account contradicts the garden’s official statement on the tree’s destruction, which a spokeswoman said was cut down on the advice of green-space arborists.

In his Facebook post, Roddick described Baxt’s firing as emblematic of garden leadership’s disregard for their experts’ advice, and suggested his axing may constitute wrongful termination.

“The erosion of due process is disturbing, as is the declining ability for people to express opinions,” Roddick wrote.

Garden spokeswoman Elizabeth Reina-Longoria declined to comment regarding personnel matters, but said that “some” of Ellis’s accusations were “simply false.”

Baxt declined to comment.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 6:02 pm, August 8, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
I was at the BBG Wednesday for the weekly Members Summer Hours, and heard this from several people who work there; one made allusions to the current climate of intimidation, of Medbury's "My way or the Highway" form of management.

The site of the former London Plane has been sown in salt, uh, covered with mulch.
Aug. 2, 9:45 am
Moshe Aron Kestenbaum ODA from Wiiiamsburg says:
Unbelievable my god what is this world getting too. The BBG dictatorship is unimaginable ugly I had witness that first hand last week when I showed up to say a Kaddish for the cut tree. This has to stop and the will of the people has to be respected
Aug. 2, 3:35 pm
Historian from Fort Greene says:
It seems the city wants to destroy as many trees as possible, not caring for residents, taxpayers or retired citizen viewpoint.

They have volunteers manicuring the parks, too cheap to pay employees who have maintained gardens for decades.

I agree with both Mr. Porter and Mr. Kestenbaum. What can we do?

DeBlasio has turned out to be a total creep; his minions are no better than Trump's team.
Aug. 2, 6:50 pm
Historian from Fort Greene says:
Yep, people need green space.

The glass-scrapers are making working downtown and local residents miserable this summer with the humidity. You're lucky to get the breeze from a wind tunnel if you're in the right place, but move in the wrong direction, it's humid as heck.

The breeze that Brooklyn once knew is now blocked from the river that make Brooklyn nights so fun in the summer.

Voters need politician who consider putting environmental protections in place for parks, and any left-historical areas of Brooklyn. Brooklynites are losing too much sun to "sky rooms" whose residents block out the sun finding it too hot up that high
What a hot mess!

In my last post, calling DeBlasio a creep is harsh. Trees are important. Anyone vowing to disallow that while in office equal to Trump environmentally here in the city.

Brooklyn the movie was a great movie showing what Brooklyn was like for two young lovers where the young and the old resided. Olmstead designed these parks and they are fabulous, should be kept green, pristine where folk will appreciate them more.
Aug. 3, 1:40 am
Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
Historian from Fort Greene: In all fairness, I note that the BBG is not under the supervision of NYC, the Parks Department, or Mayor DeBlasio. It is a separate, non-profit institution.
Aug. 4, 2:49 pm
Tom Vullo from Dyker Heights says:
"King" Medbury has once again stood up from his throne, pounded his chest, and showed his arrogance by firing Alec Baxt, who was merely trying to protect a tree that was beloved by many members and non-members alike. Perhaps this was Medbury's way of saying to his employees "shut-up" or you are out. In this decade, Medbury has completely shut down the research program and laid off those involved, had built a $28 million visitor's center that few use except to visit the rest rooms, cut down countless healthy trees including just several this past week in addition to the glorious vines along the path bordering the back of the rose garden, and so much else for his and only his personal "visions for the 21st century". Tens of millions of dollars are being spent for this and yet so many aspects are in complete disrepair. The fence along the walkway surrounding the pond in the Japanese garden is so broken down, corroded and in parts on the ground that it is a disgrace, and is almost as bad in the Native Flora garden. The wood boards on the steps leading up from the visitor's center are corroding even though they are only about three years old. The list goes on. Now half the garden is closed to continue Medbury's personal goals to continue to tear up many areas of BBG, and only time will tell as to what will become of it. I have been a member for many years and my enthusiasm for the garden is close to bottoming out. I hate to see what is next on his personal agenda or should I say vendetta.
Aug. 4, 5:02 pm
Tim Vullo from Dyker Heights says:
Commenting on Andrew Porter’s post, although the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens is not managed by NYC, it is on NYC property and receives some city funding. It is unfortunate that it is managed by arrogant Medbury. Perhaps he should be cut down from his pedestal and replaced.
Aug. 4, 11:20 pm
MA from Brooklyn says:
What happened to the BBG arborist is symptomatic of the garden's management style. I worked at the garden for a few years. Then my department's director asked me out while I was shopping at the Park Slope Food Coop. She proceeded to push me out of my job when I declined to go out with her. I reported this to her manager, to no effect. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, you do what the management tells you to do, whatever that might be.
Aug. 29, 2:05 pm

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