Parks must better maintain trees

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As Hurricane Sandy pounded our area Oct. 30, our trees, some of which stood for many decades, began to fall due to the high winds.

Trees crashed to the ground, taking power lines and poles with them. They also crashed down onto homes, streets and vehicles and unfortunately also fell on top of people, killing them.

We took it for granted that our trees would always be here. They always provided us with shade in the summer, beautiful leaf colors in the fall and oxygen by taking in carbon dioxide through their leaves.

Then in one day, thousands of them were laid low by a tropical maelstrom, many of them fighting to the end. It was heartbreaking to see the widespread destruction of our cathedrals of nature. It was arbor Armageddon.

Trees manage their affairs better than people and get into few scrapes with their leafy neighbors around them. If new trees are to be planted, they should only be planted in our parks, not our streets. The city Parks Department needs to maintain those remaining street trees and also those trees in all of our parks much better than they have in the past.

If there are trees that are weak, dead or dying, they must be removed. Those that are healthy must be pruned on a regular basis to keep them healthy.

Perhaps if the Parks Department had done so prior to the hurricane, a young man from Flushing and a young couple from Brooklyn would still be alive today. The mayor must not cut anymore funding for the forestry division, which is responsible for maintaining the city’s trees.

John Amato

Fresh Meadows

Posted 12:00 am, December 4, 2012
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Reader feedback

Carsten G. from Kissena Park says:
By his regular contributions to this tabloid it is clear that Mr. Amato loves trees. Though his intentions may be good would he please refrain from spreading misinformation by his myths and notions that he has about the tree organism.
Amato notes "If there are trees that are weak, dead or dying, they must be removed. Those that are healthy must be pruned on a regular basis to keep them healthy".

I don't argue with the need to remove dangerous dead wood or trees diagnosed to have advanced decay or, elevate branches for street clearance- but Amato is presenting a myth that pruning trees on a regular basis (and the needless spending of tax dollars) keeps trees healthy. The real fact is that every tree branch pruning cut harms trees by wounding. And the nature of tree branch pruning as it occurs to City street trees by unsupervised, unskilled tree cutting contractors does far more harm than good.

Trees need branches for a myriad of physiological and morphological reasons and depriving the organism of those branches has consequences to both the organism and the passing public beneath them. By example, the condemned branch pruning practice of Lion's Tailing or the excessive elevation and removal of live tree branches incapacitates the trees ability to counter and mass dampen the affects of high wind stresses that they are exposed to. Trees and tree branches can fail because of the live wood they no longer have. And by removing too much of leaf generating interior canopy branches handicaps the trees’ ability to maximize photosynthesis (for much needed carbohydrates) on high temperate days, negatively effecting tree physiological health. Not to mention the high expenditure of metabolism needed for wound closure of all those pruning cuts along with the chemical defense to wall and protect pruning cuts against decay pathogens and insects.

The aftermath of this Super Storm (and many others to come) and its impact to our urban forest should not be directed to even more pruning or willy nilly tree plantings but rather an entire new approach and strategy (and policy) by the City to managing our invaluable urban forest, the trees within it all supported by the science of arboriculture- rather than business as usual.

Dec. 7, 2012, 8:50 am
Naomi Zurcher from Brooklyn Heights says:
The misconception that pruning improves trees is rather unfortunate.

Pruning, when necessary, can be a good thing if performed by a knowledgable Certified Arborist. An understanding of the unique habit of each species that lives along our streets is critical to their management.

The unfortunate part is that is NOT what occurs when the Parks Department lets the pruning contracts. My personal, professional observations, year after year, have been PRUNING FOR THE SAKE OF PRUNING. The unnecessary removal of branches critical to the structural integrity of a species is often the precursor of branches and entire trees coming down in storm episodes the likes of what we all just witnessed.

The unprofessional practice of lion tailing - the removal of all the smaller, lower or interior branches along larger limb,s leaving only the terminal branches (like the tuff of the lion's tail.)

This has two results
1. The tree again experiences malnutrition by losing substantial numbers of leaves that are exposed to sunlight, and its growth is forced out exclusively to the tip of the branch. Thus, branches become abnormally elongated. Sometimes the tree get "sun burn" where the bark is damaged and splits without shade.
2. Branches lose their normal taper because they require nutrition along their length to thicken and strengthen. These limbs are thinned and weakened and FORM A LONG LEVER FOR BREAKAGE WITH LOADING, LIKE ICE OR WIND, catching the leaf tuffs at the ends. In addition, cavities typically form along the branch since the interior removals often scalp the bark and the trees usually close lateral cuts poorly.

All at the expense of citizens - both taxes and property and lives. A most unfortunate management strategy and one that needs to change radically, since it is devastating our urban forest.
Dec. 8, 2012, 9:33 am

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