A tree grows in Woodhaven — but residents say it’s the wrong one.
They are barking mad that the Parks Department replaced the nearly 30-year-old Woodhaven holiday tree, which was downed by Sandy, with a deciduous “street tree.”
“That tree meant a lot to the residents of Woodhaven,” said Alex Blenkinsopp, communications director for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA). “We had expected that a suitable replacement would be planted in place of our lost holiday tree.”
The former tree on Forest Parkway near Jamaica Avenue was more than three stories tall and was used for the community’s annual tree lighting ceremony for 27 years.
The Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC) bought and planted it when it was only about seven feet tall. Before the tree was planted, residents had used an artificial tree for the lighting ceremony.
The new one is approximately 15 feet tall with a trunk diameter of about four inches, but is expected to grow.
Neighbors believe the new tree will not be a suitable replacement because deciduous trees lose their leaves, meaning they will not be able to decorate it and it will not be distinct from other trees on the block.
The WRBA started a Facebook page dedicated to finding a suitable replacement, called “Restore Woodhaven’s Holiday Tree,” on July 7. Since then, the page has gained more than 200 likes.
Steve and Janet Forte, members of the WRBA, volunteered to donate a nine-foot pine in their yard that they obtained more than a decade ago from the Arbor Day Foundation. The couple wants to give it away because it will eventually outgrow their yard and they want to help keep the tradition rooted in Woodhaven for generations to come.
“It’s a traditional thing and when you go away from tradition you lose a piece of the neighborhood. It’s like losing a part of the family,” Forte said, adding that the tree is “sort of an icon in Woodhaven.”
Parks is aware of the problem with the replacement and will work to fix it, officials said.
“We planned to plant a Christmas tree there with the Parks Department and we planned a ceremony for it,” said Maria Thomson, executive director of the GWDC. “I called them [Parks] and they said, ‘Oh, we made a mistake.’”
A new evergreen tree will be planted in the area during the fall planting season, according to the Parks Department. As for the current tree, it will be transplanted somewhere close by.
“It seems like a brand new young tree,” said Blenkinsopp. “We would love to see it grow, but somewhere else.”
The Woodhaven holiday tree before and after Sandy.