Trees in Hell

Early in the summer, Mayor Eric Adam’s commitment to planting more trees arrived at Maria Hernandez Park. One day, during a late morning jaunt, I unexpectedly spotted the tree planters who had appeared like a mirage. Some of them were using heavy duty machinery to quicken the pace of digging holes, as others lugged around little baby trees to drop in. It was amazing to see how efficient this operation was. These were tree planting professionals.

A couple months have passed since and it looks like those budding trees aren’t doing so hot. Nearby, a game is underway at the volleyball courts. Some money could be on the line. But that doesn’t concern me. I’m kneeling down next to a little tree that’s planted smack dab in the middle of an open patch of grass. The sun damage looks irreversible. Close by, two other newly planted trees are fairing a little better. The three of them make the shape of an isosceles triangle. 

I see two strangers walking a dog and I ask them what they think about the new trees. Someone named Amanda speaks up first. “The trees look sad,” she says, “It seems like they didn’t think it through.” Her companion, Kyle agrees. “Yea, it seems like they’re trying to meet a quota.” After telling them that the planting campaign was connected to Eric Adams’ latest park improvement efforts, Kyle quips back: “Yep, of course. I knew it.” Amanda is even more charged about this: “It makes no sense. So they planted the trees but look at them… it seems not well thought through… Just look at them… It looks like they’re all going to die.”

Elsewhere, though, some newly planted trees look like they’re doing well; if they can survive the winter, then perhaps they’ll come into their own by springtime. As for the tree planting program, there seems to be no signs of it letting up. Succeeding Bloomberg’s MillionTreesNYC initiative in 2007, its latest iteration has all the right intentions. After all, trees help clean up the air by absorbing carbon emissions. Earlier this year, various borough presidents encouraged Adams to plant up to a million more trees across the five boroughs, City Limits reported; “Trees cross party lines and geographic lines. They are the great uniter,” Mark Levine, Manhattan’s borough president, said at the time.

Now, in an ideal world, this would be true. But judging by the few maladapted trees, the execution of the program seems iffy. It’s as if these trees have been sent here to be damned. For the love of Maria Hernandez Park, is there enough space for even one more sad tree?

Images taken by Max Rovo for Bushwick Daily.

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