Branches, Leaves and Quite a Fuss

DSC_0556Ian Duncan Two bloodgood plane trees in front of the Village East apartments on Avenue C have been cited as a danger by residents.

There they are. The pair of them, standing on Avenue C as plain as day, unaware of the trouble they’ve been causing.

They being, not two juvenile delinquents, but twin bloodgood plane trees that recently arrived unannounced on the sidewalk in front of the Village East co-op.

The issue of arboreal interlopers blew up at a Community Board 3 parks committee meeting on June 16. Anne Johnson, a board member and resident at Village East, said it was unfair of the parks department, acting with the Lower East Side Ecology Center, to plant trees without consulting residents.

“We want them placed somewhere else,” Ms. Johnson said at the meeting. “They are a danger,” she added, arguing that they present an obstacle to wheel chair users.

Currently the trees are bounded by bright yellow tape stamped with the word “caution.”

In an e-mail message, Ms. Johnson emphasized that residents were displeased by the placement of the trees and others approached by The Local last week seemed similarly miffed. Village East has its own active buildings and grounds committee and Ms. Johnson cited one resident’s concerns that the trees will distract observers from Village East’s existing planters.

DSC_0548Ian Duncan The trees in question.

Christine Datz-Romero, a co-founder of the Ecology Center, attempted to play down the spat and said her organization had not wanted to step on the toes of the buildings and grounds committee members.

“If you take a poll, you will always find people who say they don’t want trees,” Ms. Datz-Romero said in a follow-up telephone interview. “Trees are planted for the benefit of the whole community.”

She added that the street is a good venue for trees as it enables them to shade pedestrians and buildings alike.

Village East, a city-owned co-op between Avenues C and D and between East 10th and East 11th Streets, is already leafy. Mature trees line the streets and inhabit the development’s grounds. But Community Board 3’s Con Ed Task Force, which deals with issues relating to the electric plant, has pushed for more trees in the area to mitigate pollution.

Indeed, the city is on a greenery binge, hoping to plant 1 million trees in the course of a decade. So far this year, 47 have taken root in the East Village and Lower East Side, with 13 more planned before fall arrives. A number could be spotted around Village East and along East 10th Street but Ms. Johnson said certain parts of the development would benefit from additional trees. Ms. Datz-Romero said she would be willing work with Village East residents on picking sites for more.

According to the University of Florida the species is said to be tolerant of relocation, but Ms. Datz-Romero said there are no plans to move the offending Avenue C pair.

Planting a tree in the city is not just a matter of cracking open the pavement and putting down roots. Ms. Datz-Romero explained that the city must pay contractors to determine whether the growth of a tree could interfere with subterranean gas and electricity lines.

Bloodgood plane trees, also known as London plane trees are quick growing and tolerant of urban conditions but considered messy by some tree managers.