The July 10 Courier reporting on the planned “facelift” and revitalized green space of Flushing’s Bowne Park comes with a cost far greater than the proposed $2.45M capital construction expense, if we consider the large long-lived trees that populate the park. In addition to aesthetics, we must be mindful of the high economic value and benefits and services that those trees provide.
Yet, one park-wide construction facelift across a highly tree-sensitive landscape will result in needless tree losses in short time. With its heavy equipment and excavation, the harmful compaction of soils along with the deliberate absence of effective tree and landscape protections shall see scores of large park trees compromised in health. Such is the historical pattern of many NYC Parks Capital Construction park-revitalization projects populated by public trees. It is a division that is misguided and tree-unfriendly.
In 2013, the Chronicle reported on such a Parks Capital project in Queens at the Ridgewood Reservoir. Several venerable, irreplaceable 150-year old specimen plane trees and the adjacent open landscape were abused and harmed for a design scheme that did all but consider the “trees’ needs.” In 2004, a $2.0M Parks Capital lake-revitalization project in Kissena Park saw similar large shade trees abused by having protection and oversight removed to expedite the project to the financial gain of a contractor. Once magnificent, broad-canopied lakeside trees valued at $1.8M (as a living public asset) are now mere tree-skeletons, with a cost value that is quickly approaching zero.
By not addressing the trees’ needs amid construction, municipalities allow for tree abuses. When tree-unfriendly and illogical design schemes with award-winning intentions take preference over the trees’ needs, the outcome is never good. An effectively implemented and enforced state-of-the-art Tree and Landscape Protection Plan could combat this abuse. If carried out by the right arboricultural professional and given a level of autonomy and close collaboration with the project engineer, a Tree and Landscape Protection Plan could effectively reverse the tree abuse trends and consequences that have been witnessed.