Parks Deparment: Chill Out, Trees Will Be Fine

The Brooklyn Heights Association fired off a letter yesterday to the city’s Community Assistance Unit commissioner asking that the NYC Waterfalls “art” installation be turned off after Labor Day, weeks earlier than planned.  BHA Executive Director Judy Stanton made the original declaration in this week’s Brooklyn Paper and followed that up by telling the NY Daily News that the tree damage caused by the falls is irreversible.  The Parks Department tells the paper that Promenade trees are being given extra waterings and that it’s unlikely there will be permanent damage.

Update: Here is the text of the letter sent by the BHA to the CAU commissioner:

Dear Commissioner Parvizi:  :

The BHA strongly believes that the waterfalls adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge and Pier 4 should be turned off immediately after the Labor Day holiday. We know of no reason why a public art project that has proven itself to be environmentally destructive should continue to mid-October. We appeal to your office and to the Public Art Fund and all entities involved in the planning and promotion of the waterfalls project to turn them off in Brooklyn.

The damage to our urban landscape  from salt spray has been extensive and, in many cases, appears to be fatal.  Shrubs, trees, perennials have been scorched by salt-laden winds leaving the important Promenade gardens browned and defoliated.  Worse, laboratory tests have shown that local soil has a higher than normal salt content presenting a danger to future plantings.

To mitigate this embarrassing environmental mistake, an already understaffed  Dept. of Parks is dispatching  teams of workers to the Promenade to hose down the remaining vegetation and soak the soil at the rate of 10,000 or more gallons a day. What a regrettable use of manpower and water!

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is visited by thousands of tourists every year.  Some of its gardens were paid for, planted and continue to be maintained by the BHA using funds donated by local residents.  But the damage from the waterfalls is not restricted to our immediate neighborhood.   In addition to our public gardens and the private gardens adjacent to them, salt from the waterfalls has damaged waterfront vegetation in nearby DUMBO, particularly in the garden adjacent to  the River Cafe,  Interestingly, the Cafe’s proprietor, on advice of his professional landscaper, had warned the Public Art Fund, before the falls were erected, that this situation was likely to arise. He has therefore kept a photographic record of the increasing damage.  The BHA is now doing the same.

The only significant way to prevent further, and possibly irreversible, damage is to turn off the “faucet.”  Labor Day offers a perfect justification, if one is needed.   Whatever tourists were attracted by the waterfalls (and local businesses report no increased tourist traffic) have mostly gone home.

As things stand now on the Brooklyn side of the East River,  the NYC Waterfalls Project is all about damage control. Our overworked, underfunded Department of Parks is spending endless hours and countless gallons of water hosing down our gardens only to have the salt come wafting back when they leave.  Next day, the cycle begins again.  What a waste. What  fodder for scandal.

Nazli, we want to save our trees, to save our gardens and to help save face for the City. We want to turn off the falls at the Brooklyn Bridge and Pier 4.

Please forward our email to any/all entities who have jurisdiction over this request.  Thank you.

Tom van den Bout, President
Brooklyn Heights Association

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  • Curmudgeon

    Some years back, when the work being done at 75 Henry Street caused several mature trees on Henry Street to be cut down (probably unnecessarily) Judy Stanton of the Brooklyn Heights Association griped about the number of phone calls she received on the matter by saying something like “You would have thought someone had died.” They were eventually replaced by the smallest ginkgo trees that could be found.

    I guess that trees on Henry Street (you know the “ugly” part of Henry Street) are not as important as the trees guarding and providing the proper ambiance on the Promenade and the “hoity toity” River Cafe.

    Tell me BHA, is the Fulton Landing area in the Heights? You should probably MYOB!

  • anon

    Good Point.. It depends if the trees are members of the casino or not. Seriously though the BHA is more upset about these special elite trees.. then the people who were evicted
    from the warehouse on henry st. Those people who lost their homes requested help and were turned away by the BHA…In its typical elitist dismissive manner

  • my2cents

    What is the “casino”? I keep hearing it mentioned now and then?

  • Montague Streeter

    “The Casino” refers to The Heights Casino, a members-only squash club on Montague Street off of Hicks. Its detractors think a cabal of bluebloods at the Casino and the BHA is responsible for pretty much every ill (real or imagined) that afflicts the neighborhood, except possibly for the harm inflicted by the Corner of Cranberry crew. Its proponents wouldn’t be caught dead posting on this blog (though I’m sure they secretly read it).

  • anon

    wrong.. they write on the blog in drag

  • my2cents

    Thanks for enlightening me!

  • Andrew Porter

    A news story about the Waterfalls and their effect on the trees in the Heights ran on the 6pm and 7pm WNBC-TV news program, except both times they showed the waterfalls under the Brooklyn Bridge while referring to the Promenade. I called in a correction, but the story didn’t repeat on the 11pm newscast.

  • nigel

    Speaking of dead trees, is it just me or did the area around the Harry Chapin Playground lose a few trees recently?