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College Pt. Sept. 11 memorial vandalized

"The fact that they were stolen is just kind of sick," said Kat Cervino, the community member who submitted the application to the city for the memorial in MacNeil Park. "Maybe people don't know what the trees are for. The fact that it had so much significance for a time in all of our lives that was filled with so much grief is just really disturbing."Cervino wrote an essay explaining to the city why MacNeil Park in College Point deserved one of the five Sept. 11 memorials that were installed in one park in each borough over the past year."On the day of Sept. 11 there were all these people on the waterfront of MacNeil where these two holes, the two trees, once stood," Cervino said. "In the days and weeks after, that was one of the places where people put up candles, there was a piece of paper laminated in plastic for people to sign and put their thoughts about their grief."That waterfront spot has an undisturbed view of Manhattan and is on the edge of a tree-filled park across from Cervino's home in College Point.Susan Brustmann, director of the Poppenhusen Institute where the memorial meetings were held, walks through the park three times a week and noticed when the trees disappeared two weeks ago. She called the Parks Department to notify the agency of the theft of the trees, but she said someone had already reported it to the city."This is an unusual type of vandalism," Jennifer Greenfeld, director of New York Tree Trust, said. "We were hoping that we would temporarily be fine until we put fencing and signage and had our dedication in the spring. We just hoped people would be respectful of (the trees)."Greenfeld is overseeing the $44,000 project, funded in part by the U.S. Forestry Service and city Parks Department.The memorial comprises the two trees that were stolen, a line of timbers on the slope of the hill and a grove in the middle of the park. Each part of the arbor memorial represents something different. The two stolen trees were natural replicas of the Twin Towers, where 2,973 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001. The slope of the trees marked a journey into the central grove, which will serve as a symbol of the city's healing process."It was determined that they would have low-maintenance, flowering trees that would be distinctive from the other trees in the park," Brustmann said. "They would stand out so people would know they had significance."Greenfeld said the missing trees were white flowering yellow woods that weighed 300 pounds when wet.When she learned they were gone, she said she felt "completely violated.""I felt like it was a personal attack," she said. "Everybody who'd been involved, we were all in shock."She said the two stolen trees were planted in November and were insured by the contractor. She expects they will be replaced this spring."Luckily our guarantees for trees under the Parks Department includes replacement for trees whether they die for natural reasons," she said. "We're lucky, but that doesn't mean that's what we want."Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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