Tropical Storm Isaias uproots thousands of trees across the city

Gailyen Bender looks on as a tree lays on her house on Conklin Avenue. The house has been in her family’s history for 34 years.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Thousand of trees came down across the five boroughs on Tuesday and Wednesday after Tropical Storm Isaias touched down in New York City.

“With more than 10,000 trees down across the city, it’s clear that much of the damage wrought by Isaias could have been prevented if the City was better prepared,” said Bay Ridge Councilman Justin Brannan, whose district saw downed power lines and toppled trees galore. “We’ve got so many trees down here, many of them are blocking streets entirely. We’re doing everything we can to have those addressed immediately, because not only is it dangerous but it also prevents access to emergency vehicles.”

The Parks Department is responding to nearly 20,000 tree-related service requests as a result of the tropical storm, said an agency spokesperson, who expects it will “take some time” before the city is fully cleared of debris caused by Isaias.

We are actively managing nearly 20,000 incoming tree-related service requests due to Tropical Storm Isaias. Inspections and work to clear fallen trees and branches are in progress,” said Anessa Hodgson, who added that the department prioritizes emergency situations and impassable streets when choosing which reports to attend to. “As this was a major storm, the work required for full city clearance will take some time.”

Brooklynites reported the second-highest number of downed trees behind neighboring Queens — where more than 5,000 felled trees were reported — with 2,834 reports to the Parks Department as of Wednesday morning. 

A tree fell onto a Bay Ridge restaurant’s outdoor dining space in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias.Photo by Meaghan McGoldrick

A number of fallen trees have caused property damage and knocked out power, according to borough residents — some of whom say they are still waiting to hear back from the city’s utility provider Con Edison.

On Tuesday afternoon, a large London plane fell into the roadway on 76th Street between Colonial Road and Narrows Avenue in Bay Ridge, tearing down the overhead wires and knocking out resident Bob Donahue’s power — as well as that of about a dozen of his neighbors. Nearly 24 hours later, he says, he’s still in the dark.

“We haven’t really heard anything from ConEd, officially,” he said, aside from seeing a service tech come to barricade the area Wednesday morning. 

A large tree uprooted the sidewalk and knocked out power for about a dozen Bay Ridge residents.Courtesy of Bob Donahue

Donahue isn’t alone. As of early Wednesday, nearly 8,000 Brooklyn homes were still without power in wake of the tropical storm.

Across the borough in Canarsie, a resident says a tree she’s long complained about toppled over onto her family’s home of 34 years Tuesday afternoon.

“We have been telling the city about the tree, it leads to sewer back-up,’ said Gailyen Bender. “Thank god my brother wasn’t sitting outside. I’m more worried about the foundation.”

Bender, who also lost power Tuesday afternoon, told Brooklyn Paper that her family has yet to receive a response from the utility company.

“I’ve been trying to get a hold of Con Edison,” Bender said, discouraged. “They’ll get to me in time, I guess.”

A Queens man was the only recorded fatality from the tropical storm’s wreckage after a tree fell onto the car he was sitting in.

Brannan maintains that Isaias’ carnage could have been more manageable if officials allocated more funds to the city Parks Department, the agency tasked with upkeeping the city’s foliage.

“We wouldn’t be in this position in the first place if sufficient tree work would have been done in advance. Fighting for more money in the budget for tree pruning and tree care isn’t sexy but it should be,” he said. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I would love to know how many of the trees that fell had been previously called into 311 by concerned neighbors — I’m willing to bet it’s more than 50 percent.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday declared a state of emergency for counties including Kings and the Bronx to help with clean-up and power restoration.