Friday, May 8, 2009

Apples Return to Big Apple: Pals Planting Once-Native Species in City by John Lauinger - NY Daily News

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David Kistner of Bayside (r.) gets help planting a Newtown Pippin apple sapling from fifth-graders at PS 86 in Jamaica. Kistner and a pal are planting 100 of the trees in the city. Pokress for News

An entrepreneur and a journalist have teamed to bring the Newtown Pippin apple - a Colonial-era delicacy - back to its Queens roots.

But David Kistner of Bayside and Eric Baard of Long Island City need a little help from Elmhurst residents.

Kistner, 37, a cancer survivor who owns Green Apple Cleaners, an eco-friendly dry cleaning service, has paid for more than 100 Newtown Pippin saplings to be planted throughout the city.

The Newtown Pippin, which bears green apples, was first cultivated in present-day Elmhurst in the early 1700s, and was a favorite snack of Thomas Jefferson.

Baard, 40, who writes a nature blog and is the founder of a community boathouse along the East River, convinced his pal Kistner to help bring the species back to the city in numbers - an endeavor that is part philanthropy, part clever advertising.

"Before the Big Apple was the Big Apple, this was the big apple," said Kistner. "But, then, it lost its way, and we are just trying to help bring it back."

Kistner founded his company in 2006, after learning of the harmful effects of traditional dry cleaning methods.

With help from the city Parks Department, the trees are being planted in Queens in places like Two Coves Community Garden in Astoria, King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Intermediate School 73 in Maspeth and the Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing.

"We look forward to a harvest in a couple of years that we can share with the community," said Lynne Serpe of Two Coves.

But Kistner and Baard have thus far fallen short of their goal of rooting a Newtown Pippin in its historical home turf.

"That would be a thrill for us," said Baard, who now works for Kistner's company.

Baard thinks the "most wonderful location" would be at the new Elmhurst Park - site of the former Elmhurst Gas Tanks.

But the Parks Department generally avoids placing "fruit-bearing trees in public parks because they require a specific kind of care and maintenance," said agency spokeswoman Cristina DeLuca.

So Kistner and Baard are hoping someone in Elmhurst can suggest a suitable plot.

"Any tree in Elmhurst would be great, but an apple tree is a good idea," said Rosemarie Daraio, of the civic group Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together.

Robert Singleton, a past president of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, is a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, which planted two Newtown Pippins for its 350th anniversary in 2002.

"It's a wonderful cause," he said of Kistner and Baard's Elmhurst search. "Queens has so few opportunities to enjoy its heritage."