Brooklyn Heights

Midnight tree killer in Brooklyn Heights mystifies, alarms neighbors

Parks Department wants to find the perpetrator

November 10, 2023 Mary Frost
A cut down tree in Clark Street in Brooklyn Heights
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — It happened in the middle of the night.

Someone chopped down a perfectly good honey locust tree in front of 64 Clark St. near Henry Street after midnight on Oct. 13, and the perpetrator has yet to be found. 

Not only did the tree-killer take down a young, healthy tree, but they also hauled away every stick of the downed tree, along with its supporting stakes.

“I can’t bear the loss of our lovely new tree at the hands of some apparent lunatic,” neighborhood preservationist Otis Pearsall, an owner of 64 Clark St., told the Brooklyn Eagle. Pearsall said the tree was planted by the city’s Parks Department just a year ago.

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“And I can’t understand how no one on this heavily trafficked sidewalk thought to interrupt a perpetrator sawing down a young, newly planted street tree and removing its two supporting stakes,” he added. The only trace remaining is about four inches of stump.

Building superintendent Alberto Ceballos was also heartbroken.

“That tree was my baby,” he said. “This was vandalism. Somebody came between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. and took it. They took everything!”

He added, “What do you do with a whole tree? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Parks Department wants to know who chopped down the tree that was growing in this pit on Clark Street. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

The Parks Department said on Friday it was investigating the crime, and has passed out requests for photos, videos or witness statements in area mailboxes.

“Damaging our city’s trees isn’t only illegal – it’s harmful to our communities and environment as trees absorb stormwater, help clean our air, and cool our neighborhoods,” Parks Department spokesperson Chris Clark told the Eagle.

“While our investigation is ongoing, we are asking for the community’s help in identifying those responsible for this arborcide,” he said.

Anyone with a tip can email [email protected] 

It is illegal to “remove, kill, or damage a street or park tree, whether intentionally or accidentally,” according to Parks. In addition to imposing a penalty of $1,000 for breaking the rules, the department would also levy a fine for the replacement of the tree. 

There was recently a healthy honey locust tree in the tree pit behind this bicycle on Clark Street. It was chopped down in the middle of the night, and the Parks Department would like to know who did it. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

BHA: A lot of work goes into caring for street trees

The deliberate destruction of a tree is shocking to the Brooklyn Heights Association, with its long history of tree stewardship in the shady neighborhood.

“It’s terrible that someone would attack and destroy a tree. We know how much work it is to plant and care for our street trees, and how important they are to our community and our climate,” Lara Birnback, BHA’s executive director, told the Eagle.

“Thankfully, NYC Parks has assured the BHA and the homeowners that they will replace the tree,” she added.

Pearsall was ecstatic to hear the news.

“Marty Maher has this day advised that he has arranged to replace our lost tree this very spring!” he said on Friday.

Not the first tree murder in Brooklyn this year

This is not the first incidence of inexplicable arborcide in Brooklyn this year. In August in Greenpoint’s Transmitter Park, someone snapped the trunk of a young magnolia tree along with  two other trees including a crepe myrtle. In addition, several trees outside the park were hacked down or damaged, including saplings on nearby Huron Street, according to the New York Post.

The reason for the Greenpoint arborcide is still a mystery, Elissa Iberti, chair of volunteer group Friends of Transmitter Park, told the Eagle via email on Thursday. “We have no definitive answers,” she said.

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