A shocked resident sent The Daily a text. A RIOC crew was butchering the cherry trees across from Cornell Tech. The springtime beauties have thrilled for decades, but saws made brutal cuts. And worse, our research shows that the crew doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Cherry Trees Now Join the De-Greening of Roosevelt Island

Photo courtesy of Rose Klein

Southtown resident Rose Klein attached the above photo. Healthy, chopped cherry tree limbs were scattered like debris while a telltale red RIOC truck stood by.

I pulled on a jacket and headed out. What I found was worse than her photo suggested.

Butchered cherry trees.
Same area, cherry blossoms in full bloom, April 2021. The scars will greatly decrease the springtime thrills in 2022.

I asked the crew members what they were doing. “Pruning,” they said.

Why? “Because nobody’s been pruning them.”

A stupidity flavored destruction…

“The rule of thumb when pruning fruit trees is to do so when the tree is dormant during the winter.”

Gardening Know How: Cherry Tree Pruning

The article adds, “The timing of dormant season pruning is critical, and should begin as late in the winter as feasible to avoid injuring the tree.”

In other words, RIOC was doing its pruning at the worst possible time, leaving the damaged trees susceptible to harm from winter cold until March.

The crew onsite claimed they were doing this “pruning” to keep the trees from dying, but obviously, they were infected by the same disease that’s swept the state agency for months: Elbow Ass Distinction Disorder (EADD). In short, working for RIOC risks losing the ability to tell your ass from your elbow.

Cherry Trees before RIOC’s mindless butchery. Not an unhealthy tree as far as the eye can see.

There is simply no valid reason for the wholesale butchering of healthy cherry trees.

“The primary reason for trimming cherry trees is to ensure the most optimal access to sunlight,” according to Gardening Know How. This information is easily accessed online. It takes minutes; so, why is RIOC paying yet another six-figure salary for an alleged landscaping expert who oversees horrors like this?

Butchered teaberry trees, West Promenade, July, 2020.

Butchering Cherry Trees and RIOC Consistency

To no avail, residents complained about RIOC’s de-greening of Roosevelt Island for years. In 2020, in president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes’s opening salvo, his charges wiped out a 20-year old stand of teaberry trees providing rare shade on the West Promenade.

But the worst was destroying the last wild shoreline on Roosevelt Island in an effort aimed at changing Southpoint into Brooklyn Bridge Park North.

Southpoint Park shoreline, summer 2020.
Same shoreline in 2021.

After the Cherry Trees, What’s Left?

Not much, but the questions must be answered. Why did RIOC brutalize the trees? Really, because their ad libbed excuse doesn’t hold water. And if necessary at all, why do it at the optimally worst time possible, putting the trees at high risk as winter approaches?

Sadly, the only convincing answer is one that fits so much of the state agency’s bumbling. The formula of too much staff and no enough to do never yields great results.

The Daily thanks our friend Rose Klein for the alert.

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