How badly did RIOC’s crew damage the cherry trees?


We couldn’t know how badly RIOC’s crew damaged our historic row of cherry trees on the West promenade until blossoms lifted them out of winter. After men with chainsaws hacked brainlessly away at them in late October, we could not get their full contribution to the ongoing de-greening of Roosevelt Island.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

How badly did the RIOC crew hurt the historic cherry trees?

After getting a panicked message from a resident who happened on the scene at midday, we found this.

Rushed out to the West Promenade, we found a RIOC crew busy at work, chainsaws buzzing.

“What are you guys doing?”

“Pruning the trees,” a crew member answered.

Fruit tree pruning is done correctly in spring or very late winter. This prevents damage to trees sleeping through winter, less able to defend themselves. And it’s done only for shaping them.


“To keep them from dying.”

But none of the trees were dying. Yet. And the crew was not doing the sealing of cut-off branches needed to protect them from bacteria, fungi or insects.

Fortunately, with aid of a resident, we stopped the destruction at that point, but the results were months away. Not until the cherry trees bloomed in spring could we see the full damage.

Battered and clinging to life

You can see the difference between the sickly-looking cherry trees in the foreground and the robust blossoms below where the “pruning” operation stopped.

Here’s a close-up:

Here’s what purposelessly hacking up fruit trees on the edge of winter gets you.

Cherry trees, Southpoint and RIOC’s De-Greening of Roosevelt Island

The hacking of the cherry trees came close on the heels of RIOC’s destruction of dozens of trees, wild grasses and small animals in Southpoint Park. Part of their explanation for converting Southpoint’s verdant shorelines into the Shelton J. Haynes/Langan Rock Farm was removing non-native species.

FYI: Cherry trees are all non-native species.

RIOC and Governor Kathy Hochul praised this disaster in Southpoint as “lush vegetation.”

Is it the lack of supervision so often observed at RIOC or a managed effort at de-greening Roosevelt Island? With the state agency so deeply bunkered and under Governor Hochul’s protection, it is hard to know for sure. But the potential for future damage is huge.

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