Treepocalypse: Sandy soaking killing Brooklyn’s leafy friends

Treepocalypse: Sandy soaking killing Brooklyn’s leafy friends
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The treepocalypse has arrived.

Neighborhoods along Kings County’s storm-battered coast are mourning the deaths of hundreds of trees, and experts blame the blight on the salt water dumped on Brooklyn shores by Hurricane Sandy.

“I’m taking down a 50-foot white pine,” said Carl Cahill, owner of Evergreen Tree Experts during a job in Sea Gate. “The root systems are full of salt, and now that it’s hot, they’re all just drying out in the sun.”

As summer heats up, property owners across Southern Brooklyn, from Sea Gate to Gerritsen Beach, are realizing that their sickly cypress, pine, fir, and London plane trees are not going to get better, despite hopes that the browning trees would finally bud.

“My neighbor had two pines on his property and he was waiting for them to come back,” said Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association member Al Smaldone, “But, he eventually realized he had to take them down.”

Smaldone says many city and privately-owned trees on his Ocean Avenue block have withered since the storm.

Some of the ailing plants may retain enough water to bud despite the October salt bath, Cahill says, but tree owners can tell if a tree’s condition is terminal when it begins shedding its bark, which carries the vitamins and minerals it needs to survive.

“Once the bark comes off then you know they’re dying,” he said. “That’s the only way the tree gets its nutrients.”

In Gerritsen Beach, where medium-sized fir trees across the neighborhood are clearly suffering from the salt exposure, many people have already taken down their trees, or are considering it as they repair the damage to their homes, said George Broadhead, the president of the Gerritsen Beach Property Owner’s Association.

“The firs are dying,” he said. “It’s something that a lot of people are dealing with.”

Broadhead said even if the firs fall down, they don’t pose much danger to people or their property. However, he said one tree off of Gerritsen Avenue in Marine Park, across the street from Olga’s Garden, is in such bad shape that it could cause real trouble if the city doesn’t take it down soon.

“There’s a huge birch tree, and its dead,” said Broadhead.

In Manhattan Beach, some people have already spent big bucks getting rid of some big, dead trees. Yet, Smaldone is worried that people already socked with the cost of rebuilding might not have enough money to get rid of the hazardous foliage.

“There must be something done to help people get rid of these trees,” he said. “My neighbor spent about $1,500 to get rid of one tree.”

In order to avoid damage, and to help the city in the massive task of removing all the ailing trees, the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association has plans to make a list of the ones that aren’t looking too good — although when that chore will be completed, no one can say.

“What we plan on doing is taking an account of all the city trees that have died,” said Smaldone. “I know on my block alone anything that had pine leaves, and even the some maples, are dying.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4514.

It’s terminal: Gerritsen Beach resident George Broadhead says that if this old birch tree on Gerritsen Avenue comes down, it could cause real trouble. The peeling bark pictured here is a clear indication that this tree is suffering terminal salt poising due to Hurricane Sandy.
Photo by Steve Solomonson