Three (or Four) Red-Tailed Hawks Have Turned Up Dead in NYC Parks This Year

Via WPIX11Hawks Turning Up Dead in Manhattan Parks:

Several red-tailed hawks have been found dead in and around parks in Manhattan over the past two months. Two hawks were discovered in different sections of Central Park, and one in Riverside Park, according to Parks Department officials. All three were sent to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s pathology lab to determine the cause of their deaths.

“That to me is absolutely overwhelming,” said bird lover Virginia Arrea, who goes to Washington Square Park twice a day to look for a hawk she’s spotted there on a number of occasions.

I love to see the majesty of the bird in the middle of New York City,” Arrea said.

Other recent deaths include Lima, the mate of celebrity hawk Pale Male. Two more dead hawks were found, one near Columbus Circle, and another near Peter Cooper Village on the Lower East Side.

Experts suspect the hawks may have consumed poison indirectly by eating sick rodents or pigeons which they might find outside the parks.

We value our wildlife and work diligently to create the necessary balance between public health and safety, and wildlife health and safety,” said Parks’ First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. “Out of concern for the resident red-tailed hawks in Central and Riverside Park, poisoned bait is not currently used.

Here is the story from the NY Times when Pale Male’s (latest) mate, Lima, was found dead in late February.

Then there was this dramatic aspect to it when Lincoln Karim from the Pale Male Blog was arrested for possession of Lima’s body.

He was concerned that the body would not be tested accurately by governmental agencies to reveal the true source of her death.

NY Daily News reports on three but also mentions there’s a fourth: Three (Perhaps Four) Hawks Dead from NYC Parks March 9, 2012

Related at this blog:

* Parks Department says Rodenticide Removed at Washington Square; On Rethinking Use of Poison in Our Parks, May 7, 2011

New York Daily News: Musicians performing again at Washington Square

Philippe Petit Washington Square

New York Daily News, January 1st: Street artists say they’re performing again without fear of big fines in Washington Square Park

Artists who had been slapped with huge fines for performing in Washington Square Park say the rule is no longer being enforced — and many of their outstanding tickets were suddenly dismissed.

Maybe they are re-thinking their approach,” said Colin Huggins, who said he’s been hit with nine summonses totaling $6,000 for playing his baby grand piano between the park’s famed arch and its empty fountain.

A spokeswoman for the Parks Department insisted “the rules remain in effect.”

Still, performers say they haven’t been hassled in the three weeks since civil rights heavyhitters Ronald Kuby and Norman Siegel took the case on behalf of the ticketed buskers.

They are due back in court Jan. 31.

The rule, which applies to parks citywide, went into effect about a year ago and prohibits artists who collect tips from performing within 50 feet of a monument or landmark. It wasn’t until October that performers reported being hit with the steep fines.

At a recent community board meeting, Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner Williams Castro hinted the city may be re-considering the rules.

We are mindful of the concerns raised by some park patrons and we are further reviewing the impact of these rules in Washington Square Park,” Castro said.

Note photo above of Philippe Petit at WSPthe two trees that he used to perform between at Washington Square were torn down last year; despite assurances from the Parks Department that they would remain.

Previously on WSP Blog: Performance Crackdown at the Park — Parks Commissioner says Bob Dylan Could Still Play at WSP; With New Rules, Is That even True? December 6, 2011

Photo via New York Daily News: Mario Tama/Getty Images

What Will Happen Next for Washington Square Park Trees? Four New Arrivals Replace Perpetually Dying Trees Around Fountain

If you were wondering what the Parks Department’s next move would be after all the attention given to the perpetually dying trees that line the Washington Square fountain, it appeared when four new trees were planted mid-last week…

Village Green Zelkova

One of the New Tree Arrivals (West)

New tree

Roots? Drainage?

One in a Million

One of four new trees


When NBC New York featured a segment on this story in late September, the New York City Parks Department told reporter Chris Glorioso:

“We have experienced a series of failed plantings for the Zelkova trees in the area around Washington Square Park’s plaza. We are investigating potential causes of why trees are not surviving here and will conduct soil tests, examine the drainage, and determine if there is a problem with this particular species.”

At the time, Glorioso spoke to an arborist, Ralph Padilla, who stated:

“It was planted incorrectly,” he said after examining the dead tree near the arch. “It was planted too deep.”

“The giveaway is that all trees, before they enter the soil [should] flare out slightly at the base,” he said.

The dead tree near the arch does not flare out at all, Padilla said. He said it was possible that private contractors or parks personnel repeated the mistake by burying the root balls of eight trees too far beneath the soil, suppressing oxygen supply. When roots are submerged too deeply, recent transplants can die. …

My initial reporting on this in 2009 including speaking to a landscape architect at the Park who revealed that the design was inappropriate for the trees’ survival. He stated that the Parks Department would likely not address the issue sufficiently — due to internal politics and not wanting to ruffle the park’s redesigner – and accurately predicted that this pattern of dying trees would happen repeatedly. Eight young trees have died over four years; in two locations, trees have been planted and died three times in a row. These trees all replaced healthy 40 year old trees axed due to the Bloomberg Administration’s symmetrical “vision” of moving the fountain from its historical location 22 feet east to “align” with the Arch.

The way these four new trees are planted looks exactly the same – in fact, the roots look even more submerged. What do you think? Will the arborcide continue?

Inquiries this blog has made to the city Parks Department as to what their assessment revealed have not been responded to.
________________________________________________________________

Don’t forget this is WSP Blog fundraising week. Help out by responding to my appeal if you like the coverage here. Thank you!

My Visit to Zuccotti — aka “Liberty” — Park and Occupy Wall Street

The Scene

CNN

Meditation Circle

The People's Library

The Death of the American Dream

Daily Schedule

Guy Sweeping Up

Bed-Stuy Volunteer Ambulance Corps

NYPD

Pigeons take refuge

Where to Recycle

Free Phone Charge

A final look upon leaving

I was quite moved by the scene at Zuccotti “Liberty” Park. For everyone who has been coerced or lulled into believing that our city — as envisioned by NYC billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg — must be increasingly privatized, homogenized and sanitized, thereby crushing much of the essential character that is so intrinsic to New York; the freewheeling, gritty, and collective spirit of Occupy Wall Street/New York illustrates another alternative: what a thoughtful, colorful, and collaborative NYC looks like.

*********************************************************

Previous WSP Blog post: Downtown Public Park Acts as Home Base for Those Taking a Stand September 28th, 2011

NBC News Reports on Trees Repeatedly Dying Around the Washington Square Fountain

Dead Tree #8 in Two Years Currently In View by the Arch

NBC’s Chris Glorioso covered the repeatedly dying trees around the Washington Square Fountain in a comprehensive and well done segment last night on the 11 p.m. news. It was based on my coverage here at the Washington Square Park Blog and I was interviewed. One additional point I would have included in the piece — the fact that these young trees that have died (8 total in 2 years) replaced healthy 40 year old trees that previously lined the Fountain before it was moved 22 feet east to align with the Arch at Fifth Avenue.

You can watch the NBC piece here: “Dead Trees at Washington Square Park Blamed on Parks Department”.

** For an overview of the situation from this blog, this is most recent piece on the topic — How many trees around the Washington Square Fountain Must Die before Suffocating Design is Corrected?”

In addition to the trees being planted too deep and therefore not receiving enough oxygen (as the arborist in NBC piece states), the entire design that is housing the trees is incorrect as far as allowing proper drainage and supporting the usage of structural soil. There are people within the Parks Department who certainly know what the issues are.

Here’s a print preview from the NBC site:

The sickly tree is one of eight that have died in just the last two years. All of the doomed arbors were planted as part of a $30 million park renovation championed by the Bloomberg administration.

The Parks Department is knowingly committing arborcide,” said Cathryn Swan, a neighbor who has been posting pictures of the dead trees on her website, the Washington Square Park Blog.

“There are two locations where the trees have been planted and replanted three times, and they’ve died all three times,” Swan said. “I’m worried they’re going to plant those trees a fourth time. I just feel like it ends up being sort of heartbreaking.”

The New York City Parks Department said in a prepared statement, “We have experienced a series of failed plantings for the Zelkova trees in the area around Washington Square Park’s plaza. We are investigating potential causes of why trees are not surviving here and will conduct soil tests, examine the drainage, and determine if there is a problem with this particular species.”

But professional arborist Ralph Padilla diagnosed the planting problem as relatively simple. “It was planted incorrectly,” he said after examining the dead tree near the arch. “It was planted too deep.”

“The giveaway is that all trees, before they enter the soil [should] flare out slightly at the base,” he said.

The dead tree near the arch does not flare out at all, Padilla said. He said it was possible that private contractors or parks personnel repeated the mistake by burying the root balls of eight trees too far beneath the soil, suppressing oxygen supply. When roots are submerged too deeply, recent transplants can die. …

Cathryn Swan blames poor oversight and bureaucracy for the bungled plantings. Each time a tree fails to take root, contractors must wait for the next seasonal window to re-plant. Already, the Washington Square Park renovation has lasted nearly four years. The phase of the project that includes the dead trees was supposed to be wrapped up by 2009.

“People talk about bureaucracy and city government. You want to believe there are people who will step in and stop the bureaucracy sometimes, but with something like this it is clear that is not happening,” Swan said.

NBC: “Dead Trees at Washington Square Park Blamed on Parks Department”.

Washington Square Park Folk Festival – Interview with Organizer Eli Smith + Photos from Day 1

Banner for the Festival

This weekend there’s a new music event at the park, the Washington Square Park Folk Festival. The two day event, which began yesterday, is being produced by Eli Smith, organizer of the Brooklyn Folk Festival in Red Hook for the last three years and host of the Down Home Radio Show. The festival was the idea of WSP administrator Rebecca Ferguson who learned of Smith upon asking Matt Umanov — of the eponymous famous guitar shop on Bleecker Street — for a recommendation of someone to produce the show.

In putting together the event, Smith, who grew up in the Village on Barrow Street, said he “tried to bring in musicians who had a history with Washington Square Park.” The festival features musicians such as John Colen and Peter Stampfel who “have been playing music in Washington Square Park since the 1950′s” as well as newer musicians who have busked in the park. The goal was for a “diversity of sounds and good stuff.”

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Washington Square Folk Riots in which people were banned by city government from playing folk music in the park. This weekend’s event is being organized by the city’s Parks Department. Smith was considering showing Dan Drasin’s film “Sunday” which captured the events of that day 50 years ago at today’s performance. He remarked that many have been “profoundly shaped by their experiences with music in Washington Square Park and young people come from all over to find music there.”

The performances on Saturday had an emphasis on string, old-time, blues and bluegrass. There’s more today and it will go from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. so swing on by!

Here are some pictures from Saturday —

East River String Band

East River String Band, Stage and Audience

Whiskey Spitters

Eli Smith, emcee and organizer of event

Note: Eden from the East River String Band writes the Slum Goddess Blog.

Banner, top: C. Cassano

All other photos: Cathryn

Two Stories on Washington Square’s Dying Trees Around the Fountain

Updated —

DNAinfo covers the dying trees around the Fountain and has the city’s response (and mine!) with this story: City Getting to Root of Washington Square Park Tree Deaths (August 25, 2011)

******************************************************************
Local Ecologist Blog notes how the latest tree is dying and researches what this signifies:

Strolling through the park yesterday morning I was struck by the bronze foliage of one of the remaining Zelkovas (Zelkova serrata, Japanese zelkova; Ulmaceae (elm family)) around the fountain. Bronze is a color typical of fall foliage; this tree is not exhibiting the dark green typical of summer.

The bronze (brown) color indicates leaf scorch. The entire canopy appears scorched.* Also, there is some dieback in the center of the canopy. What are the causes of scorch? From The Ohio State University “Disease Control in the Landscape” (Bulletin 614):

These diseases commonly result from winter damage as well as from poor root function coupled with high temperatures and moisture shortage. In some cases, bacterial infection of the plant is involved. Scorched leaves are brown around the edges and sometimes between the veins. Leaf yellowing and wilting may occur in late summer. Dieback and decline is often mistaken for Verticillium wilt. No wood streaking is present, however. Girdling roots may also cause these symptoms.

When I looked into the tree well I noticed that someone (or an animal) had dug near the trunk and at the edge of the basin. Looking into the cleared soil next to the trunk I did not see the root flare. Planting a tree so that its root flare is at the soil surface is important — for gas exchange, disease control, and to prevent girdling roots.

Read more at A bronze Zelkova in August.

See WSP Blog coverage posts on the dying trees.

Latest problem at Washington Square: After Rainfall, Flood-like Conditions Impede Pathways — Rocky year for City’s Parks Department

One of the flooded pathways leading to Fountain Plaza

Updated 8:25 a.m. — It’s been a rocky road for the New York City Parks Department at Washington Square Park this year.

Phase II of the controversial redesign of the landmark park was nine months behind schedule – and that was just Phase IIA which opened in June. (Phase IIB – Chess plaza and Southwestern end – still not complete.) The repeated arborcide of trees around the Fountain has not been properly addressed and it’s doubtful there’s a new strategy in place to save future young trees from meeting the same fate of their predecessors. Bloomberg’s folly: The famous fountain, moved from its original location 22 feet east to align with the Arch, after just two years, started falling apart and is still experiencing problems. And now, after rainfall (photos depict scene Friday night), water is building up and not dispersing properly, impeding pathways and causing lake-like conditions near the Fountain Plaza. What’s next? (For why this is happening, keep reading.)

People attempting to navigate the terrain

Lake-like conditions

Drowning Tree

The primary problem is that the Parks Department operating model, as envisioned by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe (appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg), is not sustainable. The agency recklessly spends endless millions out of the “capital projects” budget to create new and spiffy parks without then paying attention as to how to sustain any of them properly. And there’s continually no oversight by the City Council or Community Board.

At Washington Square, the Parks Department callously insisted on tinkering with – and endlessly rearranging – a successful and well liked design. A budget was approved for three phases of construction for $16 Million. It was clear at the onset that the costs would more than double — which is indeed what has happened. The cost is now projected at $30-$35 Million + counting.

This is the New York City Parks Department – care of trees, fountains, water drainage should be City Parks 101. The Parks Department has had a 66% reduction in its work force over the last 20-30 years. Instead of addressing issues related to that, the Parks Commissioner would rather focus on privatizing all the public parks.

The agency persists in expansion-with-no-foreseeable-plan-in-place-for-maintenance-for-the-future. As City Hall News wrote, in a piece entitled “Money Trees,” this [begs] “the question of how much longer the department can keep up its balancing act.”

As we see at Washington Square, not much longer.

**********************************************************

New York Daily News Op-Ed: Why your parks look like this: Because City Hall is slamming them with budget cuts July 3rd, 2011

Photos: Cathryn

Part II – Arborcidal Design For Fountain Trees at Washington Square. Will City’s Parks Department Address This At Last?

Dead Tree #1 - by the Arch (3rd time)

The New York City Parks Department has a page on their web site dedicated to tree damage and arborcide which states:

It is illegal and punishable by law for citizens to remove, kill, or damage a street or park tree, whether intentionally or accidentally.

In April 2008, The New York Times wrote of two incidents of person(s) killing trees in Soho and Inwood Hill Park. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said at the time: “there is a city law against arborcide, passed during Mr. [Henry] Stern’s tenure as commissioner, that provides for fines of up to $15,000 and even jail time for tree killers.”

So what can be done when the tree killing is being done by the Parks Department itself?

It’s striking enough that under this Parks Department and Mayor thousands of trees have been unnecessarily felled. When Mike Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Benepe talk about their “MillionTrees Initiative,” it’s one of the biggest greenwashing ruses possibly that exists, at least within this urban environment.

Dead Tree #2 - east side (3rd time)

The seven trees that have died around the fountain – planted and replanted; it totals seven over 2 years – presumably weren’t meant to be killed, but, due to an inappropriate design and lack of follow-through by the Parks Department, that is the result. In two locations, new trees have died three times after being planted. (Seven of the tree locations that surround the fountain are new and part of the park’s redesign; the new trees have replaced the previous 40+ year old trees which were healthy and thriving. More on this below.)

The dead trees were brought up at a Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting in December 2009 (note: the Community Board has not addressed this since).

I wrote at that time:

There was one item of note: A brief discussion on why two of the new trees planted around the Washington Square Park Fountain died earlier this year. Landscape designer George Vellonakis insisted [note: when I asked] that there is “no drainage problem” and that it was just a result of the construction (which is troubling, if so, also).

I encountered a landscape architect at the park one day in August when the two trees were being dug up and removed who informed me that the (new) design is not appropriate for proper water drainage with structural soil and that this diminishes (perhaps eliminates) the tree’s ability to survive.

Latest #3 - west (as it was dying)

Seven of the trees that lined the Fountain (close to forty years old) were axed because of the Bloomberg Administration’s desire to relocate the Washington Square Park Fountain 22 feet east so that it would align with the Arch at Fifth Avenue. The Fountain had been in its previous location since 1871.

The true test will be if the new trees planted survive. If they don’t, let’s hope that the Parks Department will take some corrective action.  It seems wrong to sacrifice living trees for a potentially flawed design.

What I didn’t write when I first reported this — the landscape architect I encountered had strong ties to, and inside knowledge of, the Parks Department and was very familiar with structural soil (which is what is being used around the Fountain trees). He told me at the time that it was possible that all the trees would eventually die (and now we see that a third one has).

I’ve since also been told more recently by another expert that the roots are too deep and the tree’s roots are being suffocated. (Also, see this informative comment at WSP Blog left this morning.)

Neighborhood activist Sharon Woolums interviewed a “tree expert” who looked at the trees and confirmed all of the above. From her piece in the Villager from December 2009:

First, the tree pits they were planted in were a huge mistake because there appears to be no drainage capability! [Richard] Hawthorne surmised it was a design detail that won, over advice from any certified arborist.

“Instead of planting them in a pit,” Hawthorne explained, “they should have been planted at ground level with a small retaining wall built around them, the same diameter as the pits, preferably larger, making sure holes are built at the base of the walls to allow excess water to drain off. The walls would even offer a bench for people to sit on while listening to bluegrass music.”

I said, “Isn’t that what we used to have?

Second, Hawthorne maintains that some of the trees around the fountain were not properly planted. Too much dirt was piled over the “root flair,” which Hawthorne maintains can smother and kill them. A tree bought in a nursery, balled or burlapped, has only 15 percent of its required root system: That’s why it’s so important to make sure they are planted correctly. The worst and most common mistake is planting a tree too deep.

It doesn’t seem to be much of a secret — by those knowledgeable in this area — that the design is the problem. In effect, our city’s Parks Department is committing arborcide. The agency has not moved to properly evaluate – and remedy – the situation due to (what can only be attributed to) internal politics, bureaucracy, and a lack (seemingly) of anyone stepping forward to attribute the dead trees to the design.

At the time I met this landscape architect with connections at the Park in August of 2009, I asked him (somewhat naively, it seems), “If it’s known that there’s a problem and the trees will die, wouldn’t someone send a memo to the Parks Commissioner?”

He gave this some thought for a moment; then responded that they could … but they likely won’t. He said no one would step forward to implicate the design and contradict George Vellonakis, the park’s re-designer (who is on staff at the Parks Department), because of the ramifications for doing so within the city agency. The trees, he said, would keep dying until eventually it could no longer be ignored and required acknowledgement that there was an inherent problem. And that is exactly what has been happening. But will it be acknowledged this time?

Such is the dysfunction of this city’s Parks Department. Killing our park’s trees.

Tree #3 officially dead (west)

Part I from Monday July 11th: Why do the Newly Planted Trees Keep Dying Around the Washington Square Fountain?

Photos: Cathryn
Note: The three dead trees, pictured above, are no longer there; they were removed Tuesday morning.

The News You’ve Been Awaiting: Eastern Side of Washington Square Park (Phase IIA of Redesign) Opened Today!

The news you’ve been looking for! The Northeast and Southeast Quadrants of Washington Square Park opened today, Thursday, June 2nd! This will complete Phase II – A, a large section of the park, the entire eastern side, which has been under construction for 20 months. PHOTOS COMING!

Phase II was scheduled for completion by Fall 2010; then we heard the end of the year (tho’ doubted it), then “Spring 2011,” then “by Memorial Day,” but park goers looked happy to be finally able to stream through the eastern end of the park.

Of course, this isn’t all of Phase II, since, for one, part of it (The Mounds and the Large Dog Run) was moved into Phase III. And Chess Plaza, technically still in Phase II, now Phase II-B, won’t be finished til the end of the month. At least, at last, it’s something!

WSP Blog chronicled the problems back in September 2010 outlining how the city’s parks department caused numerous delays in getting the job done, how the project was over-budget, and the fact that no governmental agencies were providing oversight.

Washington Square Park’s entire redesign – Phases I, II, and III – was budgeted and approved for $16 Million at the onset. Phase I alone — which moved the fountain to align with the Arch, reduced the public space around the fountain, and re-landscaped the NorthWest Quadrant, opened in May of 2009 — cost $13 Million. Phase II was budgeted at $9 Million but will likely be $8 Million and that’s without the Large Dog Run and Mounds (included in the original figure). Phase III (rest rooms and administrative building – the new “pergola”) had been budgeted at $9 Million (note – that’s before the cost of the Mounds and Dog Run are added in). (Got all that?)

Since the Parks Department’s projects continue to be seriously over-budget with no apparent oversight by any governing body, the project by the end will have more than doubled from its approved budget and is now projected for $30-$35 Million in cost.

The fountain is out from under wraps but not on yet – in case you were wondering.

PHOTOS here.