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Church Avenue trees removed

A battle over two yanked trees is growing in Brooklyn

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Church Avenue greenery lovers claim an expanding neighborhood business had two locust trees yanked out of a public sidewalk in a clear-cut case of aboricide — then covered up any evidence of its deed with cement.

Residents charge that Bobby’s Department Store, which is in the process of opening up an extension right where the trees once stood, had the city cut the trees down, then ripped out the stumps and cemented over the empty tree pits before new saplings could be planted.

“It’s sad how some people are working to bring this area up and right next door we are losing the signs of civilization we are trying to keep,” said resident Nathan Thompson. “The coincidence is astounding how it worked out for their constructi­on.”

But department store workers denied the accusations, claiming they had nothing to do with the city’s decision to remove the trees — they just filled in the tree pits to help the city out.

“It was a tripping hazard, to keep the stumps there,” said Mohammed Islam, the manager of the store.

A hard hat working on Bobby’s new storefront agreed.

“The Parks Department came and said the trees were dying because trucks kept backing into them,” said ARCO construction employee David Johnson. “They said they would pull out the stumps, too, but the city takes two years to do everything and we didn’t want to wait two years.”

The city confirmed that it removed the trees on May 23 after receiving a 311 call about the trees’ overall decline. Bobby’s Department Store was not a factor in the decision, a city spokesman said, adding that the Parks Department will investigate why the merchant cemented the tree pits over. The Parks Department had planned to replant the trees within the next two years, the spokesman explained. The city can fine businesses and individuals up to $4,000 for illegal tree removals

But this isn’t the first time Bobby’s has tried to take out a neighborhood oxygen producer, residents claim.

During a previous expansion, workers tried to remove another sidewalk tree to accommodate the construction of a new loading zone, but a neighborhood outcry put the kibosh on their plans.

“Neighbors would be less suspicious over what happened here if we had not gone through this before with Bobby’s,” Thompson said.

—with Ben Lockhart

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow his Tweets at @from_where_isit.
Updated 6:46 pm, August 20, 2012
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Reader feedback

Steve from Prospect park says:
Bobby's is the only store on whole church avenue that is giving back to the neighborhood. The have spent millions of dollies in improving the look of there stores. Fixed sidewalks and add some serious lighting to the neighborhood. If 2 trees were dying the only safe thing to do would be to remove them but what do I know. I'm tiered of hearing articles that slander Bobby's. Thank you Bobby's for greatly improving the neighborhood. It used to be a dark and gloomy street and Bobby's has improved the look 1000%. If only more businesses on church avenue would improve their surroundings we would have a beautiful block for us to walk down.
Shame on this article.
June 13, 2012, 9:30 am
nathan from Prospect Park South (nowhere near Prospect Park) says:
HI Steve,
I am sorry you feel there is so much slanderous coverage of Bobbys. Do you have some more you can cite? You say you are from Prospect Park. That neighborhood is nowhere near us. If you lived near us you would have described your neighborhood with the right name. Kind of makes me wonder if someone asked you to write this.
You have some good info. They did put up lights as part of a compromise and much public attention to their last expansion. The one where they tore down a house in a neighborhood trying to get Landmark status.
But if you really lived here, you would know what this massive expansion will do to traffic, parking, and general civility on this corner. I suspect people who are nearby will chime in to give some balance to your comments.
June 13, 2012, 10:15 am
Dave from Prospect Park South says:
The misdeeds of Bobbi's are manifold. They are not a good neighbor. They have built onto and encroached neighboring houses, literally built on the lot of the historic house that was adjacent to their property. They sell cheap junk. They have thousands of customers everyday and no bathrooms, where do you think those people go? The only place they can, in the bushes and on the street and everywhere else in the neighborhood. It is no surprise to hear that they would cement over tree pits as they have demonstrated on multiple occasions that they don't care about improving or beautifying or making the neighborhood more liveable. I repeat, they are not a good neighbor.
June 13, 2012, 10:34 am
Steve says:
I do live in the neighborhood. And the slander seems to be generally coming from the richer folks in the area who wish to change the hood into a more suitable fit for their lifestyle. If Bobby's only cared about their profits they would not be building so much to improve the block. The fact that 2 dying trees were removed sounds like a smart move on their part. Think of what would happen if one of those trees fell during a bad storm and killed someone. Would u still think it was not worth it. And I shop at bobbys and yes they do sell cheap. I can't say how much money I've saved and they have helped me and my whole family staying on budget. And I have used there bathrooms so people peeing in the bushes is not Bobby's problem. As to expanding and creating a busier shopping distric I say hooray for Bobby's. G
ood for them. I hope they will continue to prosper and flourish. I've been a loyal customer for over 10 years and they are really very decent good people. And no Nathan, I wasn't instructed to write anything. Only inspired when I saw this ungreatgul article.
June 13, 2012, 11:42 am
nathan from Prospect Park South says:
HI Steve,
Been here 14 years myself and live 100 feet from Bobbys.
Not sure it makes me one of those richer folks you are talking about. I personally have painted the graffiti off of their gates for years.
We can debate the history all day. But it would just take us away from a simple issue of whether we had to lose trees. I will post a photo of them taken a month ago. From all the construction going on around them, it's possible they were damaged. But shouldn't the answer be to replace them? We are just asking why they had to cement over and the Parks Dept is checking into the same question. Would you agree that was fair?
June 13, 2012, 12:24 pm
Peggy from Propect Park South says:
I have lived around the corner from Bobby's for about 24 yrs (in the apt bldg) i have seen them try various ways to expand in the cheapest ways possible for themselves. If you think they really care about this neighbor try looking at their employees. From what I see not too many of them live around us. They provide no parking and conveniently said a certain amount of the square ftg of their last expansion was for storage. How is it that a store that has street level and basement in what is now 3 large plots of Church Ave does not have to provide parking? I can tell you that would never happen in other neighborhoods.
When they had the scaffold up I called 311 because they we removing the old face of the bldg and didn't even have any netting up. Rocks and other debris were falling onto the sidewalk and street. When I said something to the workers that just looked at me. After I called 311 a few days later a netting was in place. If they cared so much about the neighborhood why don't they hire contractors that know what the laws are?
June 13, 2012, 12:45 pm
Steve from Prospect park SOUTH says:
Thank you Bobby's for bringing up the neighborhood. I only wish other stores in the area would keep up.
The contract work they are doing doesn't look cheap. I can only assume they are spending millions to upgrade the store and look of the block. If these people here would have it there way nothing would change and continue to deteriorate
June 13, 2012, 2:22 pm
Steve from Prospect park SOUTH says:
Thank you Bobby's for bringing up the neighborhood. I only wish other stores in the area would keep up.
The contract work they are doing doesn't look cheap. I can only assume they are spending millions to upgrade the store and look of the block. If these people here would have it there way nothing would change and continue to deteriorate

I happen to know a few people working at Bobby's. Good people and hard workers. One employee once tol me that they are treated well. She went on saying that she gets health coverage. And that they get a yearly bonus. I was really impressed.

Shame on all u slandering the only store in the hood that actually gives back. Shame on you!!!
June 13, 2012, 2:32 pm
peggy from Prospect Park South says:
Not at all Steve, I have lived in this area for my entire life and has seen Church Ave through many different changes. What bothers me about Bobby's is not only the fact that they are underhanded in their dealings with the neighborhood but also the decline of their merchandise. I used to only buy my household supplies from Bobby's. They had the best prices on laundry detergents, fabric softener, shampoo etc. Now the products that they sell may seem the same but are not made in the United States and the quality is not the same. I am totally for the improvement of Church Avenue as long as it is to better the neighborhood and not just the store owners.
June 13, 2012, 2:37 pm
Steve from Prospect park SOUTH says:
Peggy give me a break. Nothing is made in the USA anymore.
June 13, 2012, 3:24 pm
Eva from Prospect Park South says:
Can we just get replacement trees? Dialogue is always good and everyone has a right to their opinions. My grandmother lived in the hood from the 40's through the 80's and discussing quality of life issues for the "hood" has always been necessary in maintaining a balance between folks who live here and folks who don't.
Thanks.
June 14, 2012, 11:47 am
Albert says:
I would like to see some flowering trees
June 14, 2012, 12:17 pm
James from Prospect PARK South says:
The other day as I was walking down the south side of Church Avenue. It felt strangely barren. I could not pinpoint why it felt so different. Yes, Bobby's massive new building is all shiny and new, and really high with its fortress like additions on the roof, but something else was very wrong. The sun is hot I thought.

Then it hit me. The trees are gone. Those ratty, scrappy, trees, despite their sorry and abused condition, made a difference that could be felt.

It's not ok to sacrifice the trees along Church Avenue to "progress." I'm baffled by the logic of an argument that seems to contend that because Bobby's is investing in the neighborhood we should be happy and therefore it is perfectly ok for them to delete trees from the Avenue.

Will these trees cripple Bobby's business? Are they going to pull up their stakes and go "improve" some other part of Brooklyn if we demand that the trees be replaced?

We all have to walk down that stretch of sidewalk. I for one would like not to have to feel like I am walking on a treeless stretch of desert when I do.

What trees we have should remain. If any were truly dying and because of this removed, they should be replaced. Is this really too much to ask?
June 21, 2012, 9:06 pm
PYoung from Prospect Park South says:
I registered a new tree request on June 19 via the online application. I explained the situation but just received the following notice from the 311/Parks Dept on 6/22: "The Department of Parks and Recreation inspected but the condition was not found."
June 22, 2012, 11:30 am
Steve says:
Maybe if you walk on the other side of the street you'll feel much better!
June 23, 2012, 9:31 am
Jesse from Manhattan says:
I live in Manhattan. In Bloomberg's New York, where they are pressing trees into every place they can, destroying trees through carelessness with your delivery trucks or whatever your excuse gets you a fine and a demand of immediate replacement.

But it seems like you guys on Church Ave live in a city Boomberg doesn’t know about.

Here’s a question: How much does it cost to buy a Parks Dept official? To have a City official drop by a day before your concrete pour, designate those trees next to your new loading dock as bad, and remove them all just in time for your concrete pour - well, that’s got to cost. Steve, could you research this for us? This would cause a great uproar in the rest of NYC.
June 24, 2012, 10:45 am
Steve says:
Not sure how I would research this. Any advice?

I defend Bobby's because I love them. You guys here are all very one sided and will start handing out flyers in their stores to this threads to support them.
June 26, 2012, 8:51 am

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