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Botanical Garden hosts talk on tornado-felled boro trees

About 3,000 trees came down Sept. 16 when two tornadoes tore across the city, and thousands more were damaged.

So, a coalition of state and city agencies, community groups and institutions came together Saturday to assess the lessons of the freak storms and share ideas on how to avoid such catastrophic losses in the event of another large-scale weather event.

The all-day event, dubbed “After the Storm: Urban Tree Sustainability,” was held at the Queens Botanical Garden as an opportunity to learn from the past while looking to the future of New York’s vital tree canopy.

One of the conference’s organizers, Mary Kramarchyk, a community partnership coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said it was a unique chance for like-minded people to come together to find solutions for the problems exposed by the tornado’s wrath and also to educate people.

“We want to inform the public. They’re wondering what’s going to happen with the tress and why they came down the way they did, what was done to recover and they want to learn about the lessons we learned,” she said. “We’re not going to repeat those planting practices.”

Some of the trees might have been spared if it were not for past planting practices that make it difficult for strong root systems to form underground, the use of less-than-ideal soil types and other mistakes, according to Garret Koplun, a forester for the DEC who served as one of the event’s moderators. One of the forum’s aims was to address these issues in the hopes of avoiding them in the future

“Our motto statewide is ‘right tree in the right place,’” Koplun said. “Some trees are more prone to being thrown, they don’t root properly and also urban soil is different than forest soil.

Susan Lacerte, executive director at the Garden, said 11 of the garden’s trees were felled or destroyed by the storm and had to be removed and 40 more were damaged. Two of the casualties were the beloved twin weeping willows of the QBG’s wedding garden.

“The cleanup is not done, it’s a work in progress. We’re planting, it’s been a snowy winter so many plants that were damaged by the storm have to be replaced,” she said. “It’s a loss but it also opens up an opportunity to plant new things.”

Paul Kerzner, a spokesman for Con Edison, gave a presentation on street trees at the event, which takes place in a different location each year with a different theme related to city trees. He said the future of trees in New York City is bright.

“This April will be my 40th year helping secure funding for street trees, and just listening to the next generation here, there were very few people paying attention to these issues 40 years ago, but this new generation makes me very happy,” he said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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