Wednesday, October 13, 2010

City Pledges to Nurture Sapling Grown from Acorn of Fallen Centuries-old Oak Tree by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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A centuries-old Queens tree, struck down in last month's violent storm, is getting a second chance at life.
City Parks Department officials pledged to nurture a sapling believed to have grown from the acorns of a massive red oak that stood sentry at the intersection of 112th St. and 84th Ave.
The tree, known by several names, including "Robin Hood," "The Grandfather" and "The Castle," captured the hearts and imaginations of its Richmond Hill neighbors for decades.
"The kids used to think it was magical," said Helen Day, 57, who has lived in a house across the street from the tree for 30 years. "My daughter always called it 'The Castle.'"
Day noted that the tree - which once stood almost 100-feet high - did minimal damage when it toppled over on Sept. 16.
"It just sort of plopped into the yard without hitting a person, a house or a car," said Day. "It fell in the best way possible."
Neighbor Clark Whitsett, who lives with his wife and three young children in a house near the tree, got the ear of city workers during the storm cleanup. He showed them the skinny sapling and they told him it was from the same tree.
"It's nice that this tree will have a chance," said Whitsett, a 33-year-old lawyer. "I've tried to take care of it."
Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said the sapling will be moved to the department's greenhouse for special care.
"We are always saddened to lose one of our trees, especially a venerable one so loved by the community," said Lewandowski. "Eventually, the new tree will be replanted in the neighborhood or in a park for all to enjoy."
Ivan Mrakovcic, chairman of Community Board 9 who lives in Richmond Hill, said the neighborhood is "devastated" by the loss of the tree.
"I love the idea of carrying on its gene pool," he said.
But not all the people who lived in the shadow of the green giant were fans.
For 65 years, Marie Russo and her family lived in a home next to the tree, before moving out last year.
Her husband tried unsuccessfully to have the tree removed, worried that it would fall onto their property.
"During a heavy storm, you look at it and kind of pray 'Don't come down today, please,'" said Russo, 85, who lives with her daughter Bridget Curran.
At one point, it was slated for removal. But, Russo said, local activists persuaded the city to leave it alone.
"My dad always worried it was an accident waiting to happen," Curran said.