Thinking Locally on Earth Day 2015
A Tree Grew in Manhattan
I have been mulling this post for a while, wrapping my head around a recent offense in our neighborhood. So Earth Day seemed like a good time to get this off my chest.
While thinking about this local event, I found myself flipping back decades. Growing up in leafy Washington, DC, I had an urban childhood that was surprisingly suburban. Quiet, charmed, and green. One day, returning home from elementary school, I was greeted by my chastened mother who informed her children that the elm tree outside our bedroom windows had been hit by disease. It would come down. Surely, I thought, she was mistaken. The leaves were green; the massive trunk signaled a being that could endure. But it was true that other trees on our street had been unable to resist some beetle bearing a fungus. Despite its full canopy, our tree was infected, dying. It would be felled.
This just left the question of when. And this preoccupied me completely. I was not some precocious environmentally-aware kid. But the thought of losing that tree was like losing a member of my family, and I couldn't digest it. Every subsequent afternoon, rounding the last bend on my walk home from school, I would hold my breath: had the chainsaws done their work that day? And for many days, I was relieved to find it still standing. Until, of course, the day when I rounded that bend and could see the sky; all was different. There was glaring sunlight where shade had been and stacks of wood in the parking strip. Our majestic tree was reduced to a stump.
Soon a tree replaced our elm. But I have never looked at this "new" tree without thinking of the one that came before. And decades later, it is starting to look like a mature, shade-throwing beauty. But it sure took time.
So when a few weeks ago I learned the news that someone in our midst took an ax to a ginkgo tree on the east side of West End Avenue just south of West 103rd Street, I reeled. Surveillance video recorded a man leaving a nearby building around 2:30 a.m. one March night carrying a hatchet-like tool. In a manic, desperate or appallingly selfish act, this individual -- it seems -- hacked a crude waist-high ring around the tree's circumference.
"Ringing" or "girding" in such a fashion causes certain death to a tree since the bark, like our skin, provides a layer of protection from invaders, protection from the sun, and transport of nutrients. Our neighbor with the greenest thumb, Costello Caldwell, has ministered to the tree, protecting the scarred area with plastic and a graft of bark.
So now I round the corner from West 103rd Street onto West End Avenue each day when I return home. And I hold my breath in the hope that this tree remains upright and survives. And should it fail to, I will watch a tree that replaces it grow and flourish in the ginkgo's place.
But I will never forget the ugliness that made it so. And I sincerely doubt that I am alone on West End Avenue.
By Caitlin Hawke
P.S. Don't miss our Spring Planting Day on May 2nd. Details may be found on our calendar. Also that day, our neighbors in the West 80s are organizing the "Love Your Tree Day" for the "greening and cleaning" of the West Side "one tree at a time." More information may be downloaded in the document below. My guess is that we're in the spirit more than ever this year.
Understanding SCRIE, DRIE, Rent Laws and Other Housing Issues
Following the Block Association's recent annual meeting, there are some very good resources about housing that might come in handy for our members below.
City Council Member Helen Rosenthal offers clinics on first Wednesdays of the month at 6 p.m. Upcoming topics in May and June include SCRIE, DRIE, Succession Rights, Preferential Rights and Non-Primary Residence.
The organization Right To Counsel offers town hall sessions on eviction proceedings.
The Office of the Attorney General has resources regarding tenants' rights and shareholders' responsibilities in coop and condo conversions.
Below are downloadable flyers with important contact information should wish to have further information.
By Caitlin Hawke