Our single most cherished natural resource is also the most threatened. Neighborhood trees continue to be abused, neglected and killed at an alarming rate. Today a tree’s chance of survival is slim at best. Trees that would live for up to 70 years in the forest survive an average of only 7 years in our neighborhoods. Pollution, road salt, chemicals, dogs, residents, utility companies and lack of proper maintenance, is dooming our street trees at an alarming rate. Unless an aggressive plan is forthcoming the mass destruction will continue until a healthy residential tree will be a rarity.
If this wasn’t bad enough… enter the Asian long-horned beetle. A bug so destructive to trees, especially maples, that thousands of street trees have already been destroyed nationwide by the ferocious bug. And the threat in New York City is even greater since 500,000 trees that line our streets are maples, more than one-third of the city’s tree population.
Although posing no threat to humans, the 2 inch beetle means almost certain death to trees. Once their larvae is deposited underneath the bark they deny a tree essential nutrients and the tree starves to death. The adult beetle flies from tree to tree infecting each one as they go along. The only way to stop them is to get rid of the infected tree.
In 1996 the beetle claimed 2,400 trees in Brooklyn and Amityville alone.
The beetle may be the most recent enemy of the street tree but their number one tormenter has two legs and has invented hundreds of ways to destroy or mangle these wonders of nature. Man carves them up when they get too close to utility wires, our dogs defecate on them and we use them to post signs for our garage sales. When we get tired of them we kill them by peeling their bark away (see photo left).
Storms have also taken its toll on our tree population. Recently one nor’easter destroyed 4,000 New York City trees in two days. And who could forget 15 years ago when one nasty storm wiped out 20% of Middle Village’s mature tree population.
Street trees are pruned an average of once in 30 years. The ideal pruning cycle is every five years.
Most recently the Juniper Park Civic Association and Councilman Tom Ognibene have received several complaints from residents when a tree pruning company awarded a contract by the Parks Department came through our neighborhood and aggressively pruned every tree in sight. A spokesperson told an aide to Councilman Ognibene that they were over pruning because it wouldn’t be done again for quite some time. The result is that many trees have been disfigured and may go into shock.
Please report tree abuse to NYC Parks, Forestry Division (718 699-0873. Their hours are 7am to 3:30pm Monday thru Friday. After hours call 800 201-Park. You can also call 911 in an emergency. Please notify Juniper Park Civic (651-5865).