Uprooted! City chops Prospect Park ‘tree houses’

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

The city wants Prospect Park’s homeless tree dwellers to make like a tree — and leave.

Parks Department employees removed possessions belonging to a group of homeless people living inside rotten trees on the east side of the lake after wildlife advocates complained the shanties were destroying a fragile ecosystem.

On Thursday, witnesses spotted dozens of workers — rangers and park enforcement officers among them — arrive in SUVs and pick-up trucks, then clear out clothing and bedding from a homeless encampment where a small colony of makeshift tree houses popped up in early December.

“Vehicles were everywhere, circling like vultures,” said Anne-Katrin Titze, who frequents the park so often she might as well live there, too.

The Prospect Park Alliance says it will remove at least four of the inhabited trees because they are not healthy.

The sweep comes after The Brooklyn Paper reported on a colony of transients using more than a dozen hollow trees near the Tennis Center for shelter and storage — leaving behind junk that makes the lake dirty and irks park advocates, who say the trash is bad for mother nature.

A spokesman for the park said the city works with the Department of Homeless Services to keep people from living in the greenspace.

“Camping is illegal in parks and any indication of a campsite is removed when found,” said Paul Nelson, of the Prospect Park Alliance.

Nelson could not confirm which other city agencies were involved on Thursday night.

It’s not the first time authorities have forced living beings from Prospect Park. Last March, police, the Department of Homeless and park enforcement officers all took part in clearing out a six-foot-tall shanty built from twigs near the Vanderbilt Street entrance.

And in 2010, federal agents entered the park and slaughtered more than 250 geese in a controversial extermination intended to keep the birds from interfering with airplane flight paths.

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