Thursday, September 24, 2009

Arborcide at Lefferts Playground

9-11 Memorial Trees Destroyed by Vandals

A plaque mounted just inside the gates of the Lefferts Playground in South Ozone Park was placed there to commemorate the grove of trees planted at the back of the park as a living memorial to the victims of 9-11.

In September 2003, the trees were dedicated and were intended to stand as a constant reminder of those who were murdered in the terrorist attacks. But this past weekend, just after the eight year anniversary of 9-11, vandals savagely destroyed the trees--bending, breaking and tearing the limbs off.

Donna Gilmartin, president of the Locust Grove Civic, says the surrounding community is heartbroken. “When you come to this beautiful park and see what has happened to these trees it leaves you with a feeling you can’t describe. This is not just about the senseless act—it is so much more about what these trees signify.” Gilmartin says she is exploring all avenues to replace the tress.

Last week, The Forum West reported on 12 trees that were also victims of arborcide in nearby Juniper Park in Middle Village. On September 13, sometime before 4 a.m., ten cherry trees and two oaks were cut down with a power saw. All of the trees were part of a new planting. This was the fourth time in one year that vandals struck trees in the popular park with more than 20 trees being victimized.

“Arborcide is a serious criminal offense and an assault on our communities, and the loss of 19 trees in Queens – 12 at Juniper Valley Park and seven at Lefferts Playground — is a blow to our quality of life and environmental health. Trees are a valuable asset, providing shade and oxygen, cleaning the air, and creating homes for wildlife,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski told The Forum that both incidents in Queens over the past two weeks are not typical of others involving arborcide or damage to trees. “We don’t see this on a scale like this. It’s very disheartening and very frustrating.” The commissioner said that the Parks Department had reached out for the local precinct and that she expected the police would assign personnel to the case.

Forum Publisher Patricia Adams has scheduled an appointment to meet with Commissioner Lewandowski to formalize plans to replace the trees. “The damage done to these trees is criminal but the destruction of the symbolism is unspeakable. Right now the most important thing is to replace them as soon as possible,” said Adams.

During their conversation Adams said she and the commissioner both expressed their hopes that someone in the community would step forward and offer information about the incident. “I hope that if someone knows who is responsible for this action that they would report it to the authorities,” stated the commissioner.

An appointment has been set for the upcoming weeks when Lewandowski, Adams and several community leaders presently forming a committee will meet to oversee the replacement of the trees. Further details will be released when available.

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