Saturday, September 26, 2009

10 Cherry Trees Downed: Vandals at Root of Growing Problem Around Queens by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Assn., left, and Dorothy Lewandowski, Queens Parks Commissioner, in Juniper Valley Park where young cherry trees were cut down by vandals. The circular brown spots are where the trees once stood. Pokress for News

Dozens have been destroyed in the past few months - their roots torn up, branches snapped and trunks hacked.

Most of the damage has taken place at Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village, which lost 10 young cherry trees and two oaks a little more than a week ago.

Parks Department officials said this is the worst case of arborcide in recent memory.

"It looked like carnage," said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. The saplings had toppled over after being cut off at the base.

"It appears premeditated," she added. "They came in the park with a power saw."

A few days ago, someone ripped the limbs off several small trees at Lefferts Playground in South Ozone Park. The six plum and one redbud trees had been planted in 2003 as part of a 9/11 memorial site.

"There are a lot of disturbed people running around," said Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

Parks officials said more than 20 trees have been destroyed at Juniper Valley this year. Some were older trees but many were new plantings.

Parks officials and police are investigating, Lewandowski said. There are no suspects but community watchdog Holden said he had some ideas.

"There were a group of young people drinking in the park and they were chased out of here," he said. A short time later, several young trees were ripped from the ground, he said.

The incidents have dismayed locals, who use the 55-acre park like a community backyard. It is one of the most meticulously maintained parks in the borough.

"Everyone is talking about it," said Lewandowski, who lives in the area.

The Juniper Park Civic Association, along with City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and former Councilman Tom Ognibene have offered a $2,500 reward for information about the incidents.

Crowley and Ognibene are set to face off in next month's election for the Council seat.

The young trees cost about $1,000 apiece, Lewandowski said. She expects all of them to be replaced by next spring.

"This was planned to be a grove of cherry trees," she said. "We never even got to see them bloom."