Last month, you may recall, at least nine beautiful blooming cherry trees were chopped down outside Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. Blogger Geoffrey Croft was outraged to learn, at first, that the trees were killed to make way for a "staging area," for construction of a new $17 million atrium on the property. But the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) told us, "While preparing for the Queens Borough Hall project, we found that the cherry trees were diseased and needed to be removed." Now, however, Croft has learned that most, if not all, of the trees were healthy.

In an email obtained by A Walk in the Park, an architect for the project wrote to DCAS in June of 2009 to say, "one of our Landscape Architects who is also an arborist visited the site last week to confirm the trees on the survey, identify species and review condition and quality of the existing trees... three cherries in the northern lawn area should be removed because of disease, decline, etc., and the remainder of the cherries, while in desperate need of pruning, are in good condition."

Last month we asked DCAS for documentation of the trees' inspection, but a DCAS spokesperson did not respond. Croft believes the city is just covering up an unnecessary arborcide. DCAS claims that in addition to the 2009 inspection, which found fungal conditions in three of the trees, they also conducted an in-house "assessment" earlier this year. But there is no documentation of this assessment, or at least none that DCAS is willing to provide. Croft writes:

By current arboricultural standards and protocol the DCAS project manager should have relied on a tree health report either performed by an in-house certified arborist or by an independent consultant arborist. The arborist report would have included the findings of a diagnostic laboratory analysis of a tree wood samples with assumed fungal pathogens and bacterial disease. And the arborist would then have fully assessed the magnitude of the plant disease, possible treatments, woody decay as well as tree related public safety concerns, that may have justified tree removal.

Having a contractor, or landscape architect or an arborist for that matter simply walk the grounds and offer up an informal eye-ball assessment of a situation without producing legitimate documentation to back up the decision to destroy these vital tree assets is unacceptable, critics say.

Geoffrey Croft: he speaks for the trees. According to a new DCAS plan, half of the remaining 24 cherry trees will be destroyed in order to build the new atrium, which will be haunted evermore by the ghosts of slaughtered trees.