Gloria Ferris

one woman’s view from a place by the zoo in the city

Old Brooklyn News, Brooklyn Centre Naturalists column: BC Naturalists plan spring activities

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by Gloria Ferris

“Trees give you a connection to the past, and a sense of continuity in a neighborhood.”

Benjamin Swett, New York City photographer of trees, gave the above quote during an interview with Ian Frazier in the March 4th, 2013 issue of The New Yorker. It is a fitting beginning to Brooklyn Centre Naturalists’ (BCN) annual Arbor Day article. (Arbor Day was observed on April 26th).

The history of trees in Brooklyn Centre and Old Brooklyn is a rich one. When the neighborhoods were initially settled in the early 1800s, a forest of oak, beech and maple trees greeted the first pioneers.
In the 1850s, Cleveland became known as “The Forest City”. Brooklyn Centre and Old Brooklyn certainly are part of that heritage. In the 1900s when these areas became bustling communities, planting trees along streets and boulevards was part of the strategic plan. The giant sycamores along South Hills
Blvd. in Old Brooklyn, for instance, remain as a bastion to this time of uniting nature with communities.

Sadly, the majestic trees of Archwood Ave. were decimated by the tornado which roared down city streets in 1953. More recently (last autumn) trees in both neighborhoods were hit by Hurricane Sandy.

In 1902, William Stinchcomb planned and oversaw the building of the bathhouse, tennis courts and main building at the new zoo at Brookside Park. Stinchcomb’s vision of the Emerald Necklace included Brooklyn north and south of the Park. Presently, our park neighborhoods are holding their own. Many
70 to 100 year old trees remain, but storms, updated street plans and age are destroying them regularly.

For years, City budget restraints have also taken a toll. Instead of the City automatically replacing a lost tree on a tree lawn, a home owner must request a replacement. When utility companies replace or make improvements to failing infrastructure, a disclaimer such as this one is often made: “Every effort to save
shrubbery and trees will be made. If necessary, they will be removed. They will not be replaced.”

Residents must act now or the neighborhood history of tree-lined streets will become only a memory of the past instead of a part of the future. Today, every resident can help to solidify Cleveland’s label of “the Forest City”. They can replace trees which have been removed because of storm damage, age and progress, instead of waiting for the City to do so. And they can plant new trees because trees contribute
to utility cost containment and storm water management. (Older homes were built with the intention of using trees for coolness in summer and warmth in winter.)

Planting a tree is a way to combine nature and progress. Join BCN in their effort to make sure that Cleveland — the Forest City — is a reality in the future and not just a memory. Plant a tree in honor of Arbor Day 2013. And when it’s mature, it just might increase the value of your property by many thousands of dollars.

(This article also appears at

Written by Gloria Ferris

May 4th, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Posted in general

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  1. Hi, great site but there is a issue whereby sometimes I get sent back to the root page when I look at different pages within this page.

    Launa Prager

    27 Jun 13 at 10:52 PM

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