In the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias
by Michael Perlman
Aug 12, 2020 | 1452 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last Tuesday, Tropical Storm Isaias brought torrential rain and wind gusts to Queens, which uprooted or snapped several thousand trees, including some over a century old. Power lines were downed, causing widespread outages for an estimated 2.5 million New York area residents. The storm also caused at least one fatality in Briarwood.

Extreme weather in recent years has motivated communities to help preserve mature trees and plant new ones. As local residents surveyed the damage, many began to discuss their connection with trees and consider future tree-planting projects.

“I encourage everyone to take five minutes to call 311 and provide locations of broken, dead, or missing trees,” said Kew Gardens resident Alexander Bar. “The city will plant new trees where you tell them, so you might as well use your hard-earned tax dollars for something good for a change.”

“I think I know every tree in Forest Hills and was heartbroken to see some gone for good,” said Irina Kaluti. “The biggest fallen tree that I saw was on Continental Avenue in Forest Hills Gardens. I also saw large fallen oaks on Markwood Road and Fleet Street. It was almost apocalyptical.”

Esti Lamonaca and her grandparents Kuno and Mary Laren planted roots in Forest Hills Gardens, literally.

“My grandfather escaped from Estonia to come to America,” Lamonaca said. “Each place he lived, he planted a birch tree to remind him of where he came from. If they were around today, they would quickly be finding resources to replant a tree in all the empty holes. While weather is something we cannot control, replanting trees is, and I hope we will all continue my grandparents’ tradition.”

Kew Gardens resident Meredith Alaimo planted a mulberry bush on her lawn around 15 years ago.

“My friend gave me what looked like a twig,” she recalled. “I planted it and everybody said I was crazy. Even my former gardener thought it was a weed and suggested we pull it. Now people who walk by my tree comment on how it looks like a beautiful tree umbrella. I never planted anything in my life, so I am very proud of this tree.”

Alaimo and her husband have been involved in greening efforts for over 20 years ago.

“My husband called 311 when we moved into our house because we did not have a tree on the curb like our neighbors,” she said. “Within days, they planted a cypress spruce.”

“My religion is spirituality and I have a profound connection with Mother Earth,” said Rego Park resident Alexandra Shambhavi Stutman. “There’s so much love in nature. I placed the back of my head on a trunk on Greenway Terrace. Ten minutes was all that I needed, and I felt my fever was gone, my spirit was uplifted, and I felt a lot of peace.”

Abel Torres of Forest Hills has a pine tree in front of her house that was present in a 1940 tax photo. After the storm, she spotted three downed trees on the median along Union Turnpike between Greenway North and South.

“I intend to plant 3 to 4 trees on that median along with my neighbor this fall,” Torres said.

She feels that a proactive approach is important in a changing climate.

“It is time that the community and Parks Department start applying lessons learned by states that deal with hurricanes,”Torres said. “It is clear that a combination of poor planting techniques and tree management and a selection of low wind-resistance species have contributed to quite a number of tree failures. Existing tree pits are too small so root growth is shallow, which increases the probability of trees getting toppled by wind force.”

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