“Cut ’em all down, babe, cut ’em all down!” The man called out to me from his bicycle as I stood by a tree in my orange vest, taking notes on my clipboard about a giant white oak standing between the sidewalk and the street. Not the first time I’d heard this sentiment expressed, but always disappointing.
“It’s too high and too many mosquitos come into my room,” one woman complained about the specimen outside her window.
Three guys stood around a driveway on a mild March afternoon, shooting the shit. “Little things come off the trees and make a mess,” said the man with the pushbroom, clearing the gutter of maple twigs that had fallen in the recent rain.
“Can’t the city get us some little trees instead of these big ones?” asked his friend.
Sometimes, rolling up on a big old black locust, the kind that casts its welcome shade all summer, the resident of the house behind it runs out: “Are you taking the tree down?” Not aghast at the prospect but delighted and hopeful that “their” tree would disappear. “The sap drops all over the tops of our cars,” I’ve heard.
Two times recently, in Queens and in the Bronx, I saw maples that had been girdled. Someone had stripped a wide circle of bark from around the trunk’s base — a technique for killing a tree.
But why? Trees protect from the sun, they pour out oxygen to breathe, and on top of it all they’re beautiful to look at. Wouldn’t you like to have a statuesque linden in from of your house? But, but… trees are messy, with their litter of acorns dropping on the roof, the pom pom london plane seed balls scattered across the sidewalks. If you walk barefoot when the sweet gum seeds come down the prickly pods would cut your feet!
Ouch! But who walks barefoot in New York City?
Someone has to rake up the perfect leaves of the pin oak. What a pain.
I’m sorry, but if you can’t manage it I will.