Tree houses: Vagrants take residence in Prospect Park trees

Tree houses: Vagrants take residence in Prospect Park trees
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A group of homeless people has turned the rotted-out trees in Prospect Park into their own Keebler Elf-style shanties, only they’re not making cookies — they’re destroying a delicate ecosystem, according to park watchdogs.

The tree people are using roughly a dozen trunks and branches on the east side of the lake near the Tennis Center for shelter and storage, protecting themselves and their possessions with cardboard, twigs and plastic bags. But they are leaving junk in the trunks and using the lake for washing and cooking, making a dirty lake dirtier, park advocate Anne-Katrin Titze claims.

“Everything left uncollected ends up in the lake,” said Titze, a wildlife rehabilitator and eagle-eyed bird watcher who has long criticized park maintenance. “[This] pollutes the already filthy watercourse.”

On a Saturday visit to the area by a Brooklyn Paper reporter, bedding, backpacks and cooking pans filled cubby holes in trees where one homeless man said he had taken up residence.

“Like my house?” asked Augusta Cabrerio as he gestured to one of the trees.

Titze said she has long urged park officials to remove the rotted trees, which she thinks are brittle and are a danger to park-goers.

Augusta Cabrerio called a hollowed-out tree in Prospect Park his “house.”
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Park officials did say that they boarded-up a rotting tree at the site last summer to keep it from collapsing .

Officials did not respond by press time to inquiries about whether the trees — or the people inside them — would be removed.

A Prospect Park Alliance spokesman said the agency works with the Department of Homeless Services to keep people from living in the park.

“We inspect the park on a regular basis to ensure no one is camping here,” said Prospect Park Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson. “However, it’s a big park and we cannot always find and remove every person.”

It’s not the first time park-goers discovered makeshift homes in wooded areas of the Prospect Park. Rangers booted a man from his six-foot-tall house of sticks — which looked plucked from the set of “Cast Away” — in March. Cops also busted two vagrants living near the lake after they allegedly trapped and ate ducks and squirrels in July.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

Vagrants are using trunks and branches for shelter and storage, protecting themselves and their poessessions from the elements and stowing their possessions inside the trees.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham