The president of NYC Park Advocates says his organization has found a “smoking email” to substantiate claims that the city took little or no interest in examining cherry trees at Borough Hall before they were cut down to accommodate a multimillion-dollar construction project.
In a report prepared for Borough President Helen Marshall in April, the landscape architecture firm Abel Bainnson Butz states that “no official arborist evaluations have been conducted for Queens Borough Hall by ABB.”
The report, obtained by NYC Park Advocates and provided to the Chronicle, appears to contradict the prior claim by the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services that it removed about nine cherry trees from behind Borough Hall based on a report of disease in a 2009 memo from ABB.
A copy of that memo shows that only three trees were thought to be diseased. “It is painfully obvious that neither the city nor the landscaper hired by them was very interested in protecting those trees,” said Geoffrey Croft in an interview on Tuesday.
Croft has been seeking documentation from DCAS of any survey or study that determined the approximately nine cherry trees — some believed to be about 40 years old — were diseased before they were cut down in March and fed into a wood chipper.
DCAS is the general contractor for a new atrium being built at Borough Hall at a reported cost of between $14 and $18 million. DCAS officials have not responded to numerous requests for comment on the tree removal in recent weeks, including the exact cost and scheduled completion date for construction.
The last request was placed Tuesday.
The initial response from the city in early April was that the trees were removed to allow for a safe staging area for heavy construction equipment. Subsequent statements indicated that the trees, or at least some of them, were diseased.
“When they got caught, after the trees were destroyed, that’s when the shenanigans started to emerge,” Croft said, ading that while the city now is considering relocating some existing trees rather than cutting them down, that the chances of transplanting mature specimens successfully are reduced if the movement takes place during a growing season such as the one the trees are in now.