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Local News July 11, 2013  RSS feed

News From The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association

Let Us Have A Real Holiday Tree
by Alexander Blenkinsopp

Last October, Hurricane Sandy uprooted our iconic holiday tree on Forest Parkway.

Though we were relieved the damage to Woodhaven wasn’t anywhere as bad as what our neighbors to the south suffered, many of our residents were still sad about the loss of the tree.

The towering pine had been a scene of neighborhood gatherings and a source of pride for decades. Every year, hundreds of residents gathered around the evergreen for the annual tree-lighting ceremony. The crowd sang carols, and local children decorated the lower branches with ornaments they made. Many happy memories of mine—from childhood all the way into adulthood—took place at that tree.


The top photo shows the former Christmas tree at Forest Parkway Plaza in Woodhaven, which was toppled last October during Hurricane Sandy. The city has since installed a new, non-evergreen tree in its place (as shown in the bottom photo). The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association is hoping the city will be able to transplant the sapling to another location and place an evergreen at the site to serve as the community’s holiday tree for years to come. The top photo shows the former Christmas tree at Forest Parkway Plaza in Woodhaven, which was toppled last October during Hurricane Sandy. The city has since installed a new, non-evergreen tree in its place (as shown in the bottom photo). The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association is hoping the city will be able to transplant the sapling to another location and place an evergreen at the site to serve as the community’s holiday tree for years to come. Woodhaven residents weren’t alone in appreciating it. In 2011, the New York Daily News named it number four in a ranking of New York City’s top 10 holiday trees. The one on Forest Parkway might not have been as massive or famous as those that appear each year in Rockefeller Center, but unlike those, the Woodhaven evergreen was a permanent resident.

After Hurricane Sandy felled our tree, Woodhaven held its annual holiday season celebration around an artificial pine tree. The stand-in served its purpose for the 2012 festivities, but the neighborhood looked forward to an authentic replacement being planted in the near future.

Within the past several weeks, we finally got that new tree—but it was not what we expected or hoped for. It’s a plain deciduous tree, looking like any other in the neighborhood. It’s maybe 15 feet tall and its trunk is just a few inches thick. It will lose its leaves in the winter, like most of Woodhaven’s street trees.

We at the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) bear no ill will toward the new tree. Years from now, it will grow into an impressive addition to our streetscape. In this newspaper and elsewhere, we have called for more trees to be planted throughout Woodhaven. We absolutely do not want this tree to be cut down.

But where it is right now is not the right location for it. We want an evergreen to take the place of our lost one. We want a replacement that could serve as a holiday tree—one that’s distinctive and will look lively during the holiday season and will eventually grow to resemble the tree we lost.

We’re not the only ones. In less than two days, over 200 people joined our Facebook group called “Restore Woodhaven’s Holiday Tree.” You can join too by visiting this website: bit.ly/WoodhavenTree (no period at the end).

The WRBA has contacted the Parks Department, Community Board 9, and our elected officials to ask for a suitable replacement. Fortunately, there is an excellent candidate. Two WRBA members have a young pine tree growing in their backyard, and they’re willing to donate it to Woodhaven to serve as a new holiday tree on Forest Parkway.

As for the young tree currently standing in that spot, there are scores of places throughout Woodhaven awaiting street trees. It would quickly find a good home and residents eager to tend to it.

Experts agree that moving relatively young trees is easy and inexpensive, and the Parks Department recently supported a plan to transplant dozens of huge, fully-grown trees to make way for the expansion of the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. So transplantation should be no obstacle here.

Our message to the Parks Depart- ment and to anyone who might weigh in on this decision is clear: Let us have a real holiday tree. Without it, Woodhaven will lose a tradition and become a less unique place to live.

Editor’s note: Blenkinsopp is member of Community Board 9 and director of communications for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. For additional information on the WRBA, visit www.woodhavennyc.org.