Wind-Driven Arboricide Continues


While the tree carnage of ten days ago was spectacular, brisk winds tonight claimed another victim. BHB friend Martin L. Schneider, perhaps channeling Edward Bulwer-Lytton, sends the following, along with the photo above:

It was a dark and stormy night. And this was the shocking scene on Monroe Place at the Clark Street corner around 9:30 p.m., Tuesday. Our daughter, Carla Muskat, was in the front room in number 12, quietly reading. A New Hampshire person, she heard a familiar sound, that of a tree breaking apart in a windy gust. About 15 minutes later, she heard the sound of a chain saw and knew then that it was bigger than a branch. The entire tree had been uprooted, hurting nobody, but falling down on [the] stoop at number 3. Luckily, no damage was done. Just a lot of out-of-place greenery in the gutter and a rotted out tree bottom fully exposed. And, one more tree pit to get filled in with something fresh and healthy.

Share this Story:

, , ,

  • MRG6726

    FYI: Most uprooted trees occur during storms because of a) the lack of a well-established root system; or b) a shallow root system. The latter, combined with heavily-saturated soil, was the main reason for the extreme number of uprooted pin oaks at Marine Park two months ago (little wind protection by neighboring structures and other trees was another contributing factor). I stopped by this Norway Maple yesterday afternoon, late in the day, just to make sure that sidewalk and road access was available, which is currently is, and the debris will be removed very shortly. However, there is little in the way of a decent root system, a common issue in ALL cities. Soil compaction, concrete sidewalks, the roadway, utilities, the lack of soil conducive to tree and root growth… these are factors that are inherent to any urban area, and really are not easily detected all that well – unless you’re Clark Kent ;-). However, recent advances in urban forestry have allowed for new soil types that allow for excellent planting and growing conditions in sidewalk areas, slowed root growth to avoid sidewalk lifting and heaving and there is even a tool that accurately detects subterranean root size and location without the need to remove sidewalks or dig. The best part? There are a number of testing sites throughout the city and here in Brooklyn. The science of arboriculture and urban forestry has changed for the better so much in recent years, and I expect even more advancements in the future as old trees are replaced with new plantings.

  • David on Middagh

    It is heartening to know that urban forestry is an active field. I depend on the oak outside my window for so many things: greenery, shade, bird and squirrel habitat, noise screening, visual screening, window gazing…

  • William Spier

    Ever since I joined Ford Rogers in maintaining and enhancing our garden at Bridge Harbor Heights, I’ve learned more about the trees planted by the City: their longevity, appropriateness for where they are planted, and the usual types planted now.

    Trees along our sidewalks and roads live a tenuous existence and take all kinds of abuse, and they certainly cry from neglect and poor nutrition. The comment above is dead on about soil compaction and the soil now used to affect appropriate root growth. However, their are trade offs here. Calloway pear trees can thrive, yet their limbs grow heavy and are vulnerable to strong winds. The City still plants them. Norway Maples have a very short life span and begin to die after ten to fifteen years. Additionally, those planted before the new tree drive do not get the nutrition this tree needs. I would not plant them.

    The City is planting Horbeams, and that is a very good idea. They can thrive here (we have a very nice one here at BHH) and grow thick. Ginkos, locusts, other maples do well. Occasionally, I speak to someone from Parks and tree planting and ask why Arkansas chestnuts, purple plums, and coral bark maples etc. are rarely planted. I never get a satisfactory answer but do know, as the above commenter says, there are testing sites where tress like the chestnut are being studied for suitability.

    Our BHH garden probably has fifty or so tree species and they are very healthy characters. From the fence along the parking lot, you can see a weeping Alaska pine, ceders, an Igiri, a willow, dogwoods, a snake bark maple, and a splendid empress tree. Under the right conditions, all kinds of trees thrive in Brooklyn. Trees love Brooklyn.

  • MRG6726

    Mr. Spier, you are correct with most of your post, but there are a few inaccuracies that I’d like to clear up.

    Calloway Pears are common misnomer for Callery pears, Pyrus calleryana. More specifically, the cultivated variety, or cultivar, that is planted most prominently is the ‘Bradford.’ However, Bradford pears are not an advised planting at this point, and very few have been planted within the past several years. The Parks Department has a very diverse schedule of approved genera and species, and new cultivars emerge on a regular basis.
    Acer platanoides, more commonly known as Norway maple, are NOT a recommended new planting because of numerous inherent structural flaws and because they are a prominent host of the Asian Longhorn Beetle. The also do not begin to die after 10-15 years any more often than other large shade trees. Certain tree species tend to have general lifespans, with some lasting much longer than others. Of course, the environmental conditions are the largest factor in lengthening or shortening the lifespan of any tree, and those conditions include, but are not limited to such things as soil texture and the availability of macro- and micronutrients; population density and surrounding structures; ozone emissions; planting placement (interestingly enough, a tree planted five feet further from the curb than another of the same species can actually fare better due to a much lower amount of salt exposure from winter plowing, much, much lower incidence of vehicular damage being sustained, less stormwater discharge exposure, etc.)
    Prunus cerasifera, or Cherry, Myrobalan or Purpleleaf plum, are not nearly as widely planted in sidewalk areas as they are in park settings for several reasons: they do not grow well in compacted soil; they prefer acidic soil, while concrete sidewalks tend to leach lime into the soil underneath, thus raising the soil pH to an alkaline level; they are short-lived, often lasting only for 20 years; they are a messy planting that drop many leaves and fruits; they are a low-limbed species that require regular directional pruning during the initial years following planting; they also fail to grow very well unless planted in an area with little or no shade, something not easily accomplished for an understory planting in an urban setting.
    I have also never heard of an Arkansas chestnut. Chinese chestnuts have been popping up here and there, and I personally like the tree a great deal.
    Coral bark Japanese maples (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’) are rarely planted because of the difficulty in obtaining a bulk number of them and because they are expensive plantings to purchase, plant and have damaged or just not survive the planting process.
    Aside from a few minor mistakes, it’s refreshing to hear from a member of the public who enjoys trees and shrubs and is knowledgeable on the topic.

    *Note to everyone: Please keep in mind that my comments are my own and at no time shall or am I able to represent, comment on behalf or agree with or oppose anyone or anything but myself. There may have been some confusion with my previous posts regarding storm damage on Clark Street and the trees in Brooklyn Heights and whom on behalf I am commenting. Any comments I make are derived from my knowledge and my experience, that of an ISA-certified arborist with over a decade of experience in the tree care industry.

  • nabeguy

    No need for the disclaimer, MRG 6726. Between you and William, we should all be grateful for receiving a free education that goes way beyond Forestry 101. If nothing else, I’ve learned that nature does what it does, but it’s man that feels the need to overlay it with a malevolent intent.

  • MRG6726

    Nabe, the disclaimer is due to some potential confusion with recent posts where readers may have misinterpreted my words as statements issued on behalf of the NYC department that currently employs me.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Impressive. I’m a City boy and don’t know a thing about trees. I love them, though. Can’t believe I actually read all of the above posts, even nabeguy’s. lol

    Yes, very well written, as always MR.

    Thanks much.

  • since47

    I walked by the tree the other day and saw, as I can be seen in the photo, that the root system was very minimal. What’s interesting is that the tree was not directly on the corner, and yet, with the tunnel effect we get from Clark & Henry, the wind was able to take this tree down. What is it with these winds we’re experiencing lately? Any answers, MRG?

  • MRG6726


    Seriously, we’ve sustained a number of heavy wind, rain and snow storms here in the Five Boroughs this past year, and that can be chalked up to nothing more than a global weather phenomenon. The important thing to consider is that, unless a catastrophic storm hits, which sets forth a state of emergency, a lot of limb, attachment and whole tree failures occur due to more than one major contributing factor. A leaning tree is not necessarily a major hazard just as a tree that appears to be healthy may have some strong internal structural flaws. Recurring incidents of vehicular damage, heavy rains and strong winds may push a tree to its limits, and I’ve seen seemingly healthy specimens uproot, snap, crack and lose large limbs and leaders on beautiful, sunny, calm days.

    Believe it or not, excessive growth of lush, green foliage has caused trees to uproot and large leaders to crack because of the great capacity for wind and precipitation catch, particularly if most of the foliage is concentrated on the outer portion of the limb or lead. For me, Bradford Pears are prime examples of such failure.

    Nabe, would you mind if I posted my e-mail in this thread so that people with questions regarding tree care that may not be relevant to the topic can ask me?

  • Andrew Porter

    Another factor overlooked by everyone is that all of the Heights, indeed all of Staten Island and Long Island (that’s the four counties of Kings, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk) are a terminal moraine for the last ice age, and so much of the ground below a dozen feet or so is jumbles of rock and sand. Not much nutrition there, so not much development of deep anchoring root systems.

    Anytime here’s a street excavation, take a look: they usually hit sand within 10 feet,

  • Claude Scales

    MRG6726: As a BHB staffer, let me first join the many readers who have expressed appreciation and gratitude for your enlightening comments. If you wish to post your e-mail address, you are most welcome to do so. Our Terms of Service prohibit posting of other people’s personal information such as e-mail addresses, phone numbers or street addresses unless permission is given by that person, but anyone who wants to post their own information, and is willing to handle the resulting traffic, may do so.

  • MRG6726

    Claude –

    Thanks for the reply. I’ll provide my e-mail address, and if there is anyone who wants to ask a question about anything related to trees and shrubs (planting, pruning, insects and diseases, identification, etc.), please feel free to contact me. As I’ve previously stated, I am not at liberty to offer any information regarding street and parks trees and associated policies that is not already publicly available. I am, however, more than happy to offer my unbiased opinion and honest evaluation of a situation as an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture, with over 10 years of experience in the green industry.

    Thanks again.

  • William Spier

    MRG6726, you are absolutely correct; I was in a rush to post and as usually, spelled phonetically.

    You are much more knowledgeable than I am; you are an aborist and I just dig a hole and plant trees that appeal to me. All this information is very helpful to us all. And, you were right, it is the Chinese chestnut I meant, not Arkansas. Next time I will spend a bit more time on a post. Thanks MRG6726

  • William Spier

    And, MRG6726, I would love to show you our trees at BHH. E-mail me if you would like to visit the garden.

  • MRG6726

    Mr. Spier, I’d love to take a peek at what you have at BHH. I don’t know how to access your e-mail address, but if you’d be so kind as to e-mail me with your contact information, perhaps we can set something up.

    For everyone else: as sad as it is to witness any tree become one of Mother Nature’s victims, you may take solace in the fact that the weaker specimens are generally the first to suffer storm damage. Of course, exceptions do exist. Still, the subject of this post was removed today, and I wasn’t at all surprised at how limited the root system was. In fact, I’m often more surprised at how the tree stood intact for so long than I am at how inadequate some of the root systems are.

    An important fact to consider is that there is no “perfect” place for any one tree to grow. However, the best growing conditions that trees might experience can be found in a forest or undeveloped natural setting more than anywhere else. Very few tree failures – urban and natural areas; New York City and worldwide – can be predicted with much, if any accuracy, and many recent advances have emerged within the field of arboriculture and urban forestry to assess past, as well as forecast and limit potential future tree failures.

  • William Spier

    MRG6726You can get me at, or better, 718-624-7747