March 3, 2016

We have 37 trees and 6 empty pits. At least 10 of the pits need serious sidewalk work to prevent failure, and nearly all need tree guards.As many of you know, our trees are beginning to suffer major problems. You also know that we were responsible for planting these trees 44 years ago. What we did not know at the time was that Callery Pear trees, which blossom so beautifully in the spring, also actively seek sunlight. In our case, this means that trees planted on the south side of the block, actually grow toward the north in order to collect more sun time each day. In so growing, they lean out over the street eventually producing not only a lovely tunnel but a most unbalanced equilibrium. When, as twice in the past, we receive either an early fall or late spring snowfall providing abnormal weight on the foliage the limbs simply break and fall on anything below them. Cars and people. The city takes a great interest in not having any one injured by falling limbs and has been in twice to simply cut down the trees altogether. We were not alert at the switch and lost our two best northeastern trees as a result of this.

In order to remove that danger, we quickly decided that the remaining callery pears had to be pruned immediately. And in order to do this in such a way as to obtain quick city approval and cooperation, we reached out directly to the chief of the forestry division of the Parks Department (with whom we had had regular contact over the past 30 years). Within one day they sent in their pruning crew to clean up dead branches and obvious worrisome trees. Shortly thereafter, we engaged the Urban Arborists firm, which was strongly recommended by Parks, to prune all of the remaining trees per our specific guidance. While we have used the Bartlett firm in the past, we have been getting much better attention from the Urban Arborists. Because our planning and pruning has been done in total coordination with Parks, we expect our next steps will get maximal Parks support and cooperation.

In the late fall the chief of the forestry division as well as the chief arborist at Urban Arborists walked the block with us. Over that approximately 3 hour visit we observed every tree on the block and noted what specific actions needed to be taken. Parks and New York City in general have determined that for trees to receive adequate amounts of water from rainfall the tree pits should be at least 4’ x 8’. Most of ours are smaller and should be enlarged. And we determined that a small number of our trees are either diseased or deformed beyond saving and should be removed and replaced.

Because the trees have not been pruned in such a way as to be balanced, many of the sun-seeking “northern leaners” root systems are distorting the pavement around them quite significantly. This is particularly obvious in the trees in front of the school, which comprise some of our very best specimens. Rather than take these trees out and wait years for replacements to mature, everyone thought it better to enlarge the pits significantly so as to accommodate the roots. and thereby preserve the lives of their occupants. In in order to accomplish this most expeditiously and within reasonable economic parameters, your association needs assistance from someone with a bit of architectural design and drawing expertise to develop rudimentary drawings of each tree pit as it presently exists and as it should be once enlarged. We have already taken exact measurements for every tree and its pit and only need someone to draw this up for the purpose of obtaining bids from sidewalk contractors to enlarge the pits. The object of this exercise will be to indicate the lineal feet of concrete cutting necessary and the approximate volume of new concrete and lineal feet of tree guards required. We already have pictures of each tree and pit to back up our request for proposals.

Once the drawings are completed, Parks have said they are willing to assist us in identifying a few sidewalk contractors skilled in these kinds of jobs. With a detailed set of drawings, even simple ones, we should be able to obtain cost estimates for this overall project from several sources. It is these sets of drawings with which we need assistance in order to reach out to third-party sources. This should be an easy task for anyone working with an architectural firm. This is our initial step and should happen as soon as possible. We welcome help or a reference from a resident.

After we have obtained clear and detailed estimates of the work to be done for tree cutting, replacement and pit enlargement (with tree guard design to follow) we will move to the finance and implementation phase. When completed, we will present you all with a specific budget and possible timing to undertake this quite ambitious block long improvement. With a total of 37 existing trees and 6 empty tree pits, we will need approximately 10--15 new trees. Following the city requirement and strong guideline that trees be planted in 4’ x 8’ pits, at least 10 pits will need to be enlarged. As many of you will have observed, there are another 10 or so pits where the tree roots have either simply cracked the sidewalk or actually produced substantial heaving. These pits will require more concrete work.

And, most all of the pits (with the exception of #100 and perhaps the school) require new tree guards. Since the concrete work will be substantial and precede selection and installation of tree guards, at this time we are considering this a separate phase of the overall project. Parks may provide some of the new trees at no cost. A very rough estimate of the entire project cost could well be $35,000 covering the cost of pit concrete cutting and enlargement plus tree guards. There is more concrete work to be done for the school’s trees than ours, and whether their trees get guards is an open question. The school PTA is quite supportive and we trust will contribute their fair share of the overall costs.