New York City doesn’t usually have tornadoes or hurricanes, although we are in the path of such storms. The city heat produces a high pressure bubble that usually pushes storms away. Well most of the time. A freak storm toppled 500 trees in Central Park last August and a tornado dipped into a coastal neighborhood in Brooklyn in April. Last Thursday we had two small tornadoes which cut through Brooklyn and Queens in a period of about 20 minutes, with winds up to 80 miles an hour and “microbursts” of 125 mph. One person was killed and a few others injured. When it finished 3000 dead street trees lay in its wake, with the branches of untold others ripped from their trunks.
New York City has, or had until Thursday, about 5 million trees including 650,000 street trees. When I came here as a teen, raised on West Coast horror stories of the city, I was stunned at how green New York City was, especially compared to San Francisco which was relatively bereft of trees at the time. There are oaks of various kinds, London plane trees, maples, beeches, mulberry trees, Callery pears, lindens, ginkgos, blight-resistant elms, birches, liquidambars, osage oranges, sycamores, horse chestnuts, sumacs, catalpas, alianthus trees, magnolias, weeping cherries, various pines and hundreds of other species. My neighborhood has trees that range from a seedlings to 150 years old with much older trees in Prospect Park’s secondary forest where at least 100 trees were killed. But the average life of a street tree is only seven years, making the grandfather trees true treasures. Continue reading Thoughts on the Loss of Trees