Brooklyn Boro

New greenway trees help replace massive loss in beetle scare

Waterfront lost 700 trees in '90s, led to 'greening Greenpoint' initiative

May 25, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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Some readers may remember the discovery of dangerous, tree-damaging Asian Longhorned Beetles in Greenpoint in the 1990s, which led to about 700 trees being destroyed to prevent the spread of the destructive pest. 

The necessary destruction left Greenpoint somewhat devoid of trees. 

Then, in 2015-19, the “Greening Greenpoint” project planted 635 trees in Greenpoint. 

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Most of these were east of Manhattan Avenue, according to Anna Bakis, stewardship manager and Naval Cemetery landscape manager at the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. 

Now, however, a new effort is under way to plant trees along West Street, the closest street to the Greenpoint waterfront, as well as on some of the side streets between West and Franklin streets and on Franklin itself.

The effort, sponsored by the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, is already under way, and about 40 trees are being planted or will be planted, she says. “Not all of them are being planted into existing tree pits — we also want to establish new ones,” she said.

The trees, said Bakis, are not saplings — they’re 3 to 3 ½-inch-in-diameter young trees. All are New York City-native trees, including swamp white oak, American elm, common hackberry, American hornbeam, Eastern hophornbeam and shingle oak.  Oaks, in particular, are resistant to the Asian Longhorned Beetle.

A closeup of the new trees the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative is planting near the western Greenpoint waterfront. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative.

Funding, she said, comes through the Newtown Creek Environmental Benefit Fund, with input from the City Parks Foundation and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The tree planting coincides with the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative’s Brooklyn Greenway plan, for a walking and bike path along the Brooklyn waterfront. 

According to the group’s online map, the Greenpoint section, which is still unfinished, will run along West Street. So when cyclists and runners traverse West Street, they will now be greeted by a row of trees cheering them on.

“What’s new about the plantings is that they’ll be part of our vision for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway as a landscaped corridor wrapping around the Brooklyn waterfront, which separates and protects bicyclists and pedestrians while also bringing the multiple benefits of trees: beauty, air filtration, wildlife habitat and more,” said Shreema Mehta, another spokesperson for Brooklyn Greenway Initiative.

Most experts believe that the original Asian Longhorned beetles “stowed away” in packages of wooden pallets that arrived by ship, then headed to the area.

In 2019, state, local and federal authorities announced that the beetles had finally been eradicated in Brooklyn and Queens. At a celebration in McCarren Park in Williamsburg, cupcakes decorated with pictures of the distinctive black insect were served to jubilant parkgoers and agriculture and horticulture experts.


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