Prospect Park South

City pulls trees from historic block after outcry

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The city left a Ditmas Park street pockmarked with gaping holes after it planted trees against the wishes of residents and then quickly uprooted them when people began to complain — leaving the trunk-sized craters behind.

Stratford Road homeowners between Beverly and Albemarle roads, which is part of the Prospect Park South Historic District, say the city never notified them before placing 24 Beech trees along the curb — a move that violated the historic district’s longtime agreement with the city, James Dougal, the president of the Prospect Park South Association explained.

“Since 1905 the board has worked with the Parks Department to plant trees on the inside of the sidewalk as opposed to the curb — keeping with the neighborhood’s original design,” Dougal said. “It was a surprise that they wouldn’t have come to us first if they wanted to make a change.”

After pressure from the Prospect Park South Association, the city buckled and removed the trees from the curb last week — but the holes they dug remained.

The city then offered residents the opportunity to get the trees back. The city said it would plant the trees on residents’ front lawns with one stipulation: the homeowner would be in charge of the tree’s upkeep — an ultimatum that violates another agreement between the city and Prospect Park South Historic District residents, Dougal said.

“The parks department has changed a long-standing position on the trees on the lawns,” said Dougal, who said that the city always pruned trees — even the ones on private front lawns — in historic districts. “It’s something we’re hoping they’ll change.”

Calls to the city regarding the alleged planting fiasco were not returned.

Dougal said more residents on the street would have welcomed the trees on their lawns, provided the city promised to care for them.

Yet some residents of the uprooted block — which lost several trees in a freak 2007 tornado as well as last year’s hurricane — believe the Prospect Park South Association is being too rule-bound with the city — and that the neighborhood could use a few more trees, regardless of where they’re planted or who cared for them.

“I was very happy about the trees and bummed out that they took them out,” said a resident of the block who asked not to be named. “I think the Association’s heart is in the right place. I just wish they wouldn’t have pulled them up!”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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