• September 19, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

Kick in the ash for South Ozone Park blocks

Some 200 street trees coming down thanks to this emerald pest

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:06 pm, Thu Sep 19, 2019.

More than 200 ash trees, many a half century or more old, are being cut down in South Ozone Park in the city’s war to slow the spread of a destructive Asian beetle.

Tree cutters from the Parks Department began last week to take down the street trees, once the most planted species of curbside trees in the city.

The trees will be replaced starting this spring, but the decision to take them out has hit the neighborhood hard.

“On some blocks, every tree is gone,” said Joe Caruana, head of the Ozone Park Civic Association.

“You wake up in the morning to the sounds of the tree cutters.

“The Parks Department does a good job of cleaning up. But when they’re done, I can’t believe how different the blocks look.

“It’s having a real impact.”

The removals cover a large section of South Ozone Park directly west of Aqueduct Race Track and Resorts World Casino — from 114th to 130th streets between Rockaway Boulevard and the North Conduit.

A devastating pest called the emerald ash borer is to blame.

The invasive beetle feeds on the leaves of the ash tree — not itself a problem.

The damage comes when they lay their eggs in the bark. The larval beetles penetrate under the bark, cutting off water and nutrients and slowly killing the tree.

The pest is said to be responsible for killing millions of trees in 35 states since it was discovered in the United States in 2002, according to the Emerald Ash Borer Information Network.

A Parks Department spokeswoman said the agency plans to remove 456 ashes in Queens in the next year.

“I just want to emphasize that we don’t take tree removals lightly,” said the spokeswoman.

“Our management plan for EAB prioritizes treating and keeping as much canopy as we can.”

The European Hornbeam and Hardy Rubber Tree will be replanted in place of the ash trees, Parks Department officials said.

Contractors complete the work usually within 18 months, the spokeswoman said.

Still, to see the tree cover disappear on so many blocks has cast a pall over the neighborhood, said Caruana.

“The reason I still live here, in part, was because of the old trees,” he said.

“There’s no buffer now, nothing to stop the rain and snow and give the sidewalks some shade.”

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