On the first Friday of each December in a beautiful ceremony sponsored by the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, residents of Woodhaven of all faiths and nationalities would gather and watch the lighting of our tree.
That evergreen tree was a source of year-round pride in this community. It was part of Woodhaven’s fabric, part of our history, part of our culture. It belonged to all of us. And it was taken from us in a single night, knocked down by the destructive force that was Hurricane Sandy.
A week later, we held a flashlight vigil at that spot. Dozens of residents came out, bringing flashlights and batteries for the residents in Howard Beach and the Rockaways. And while we all knew how lucky we were, how the brunt of the damage was to the south of us, we were all still struck with a sense of loss.
We mourned for our tree, but we all had faith that a new tree would take its place, and we would enjoy watching it grow to become a new holiday tree for a new generation.
Unfortunately, what ended up being planted in its place is a plain old tree, just like all the other ones that are being planted around Woodhaven. There’s nothing wrong with this tree. The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association has been pushing for more trees just like it to be planted, but on our streets within our community.
Not here. Not in this spot.
Again, we have nothing against this particular tree. It's lovely. Heck, they can plant it in front of my house and we'll love and care for it for decades to come. It just does not belong on the spot where our Holiday Tree stood proudly for decades.
I may not know a lot about trees. I couldn't tell you the difference between a maple and a sycamore. I can't tell you the difference between an oak and an ash tree. But I can tell you that this tree – the tree that has been planted here – is completely inappropriate and inadequate.
The time to rectify this situation is now. The WRBA has written to the Parks Department, our elected officials, Community Board 9, and local civic leaders and asked them how this particular tree was chosen for such an important spot in our community, and how we can get a tree more suitable to the history and traditions of Woodhaven.
We have a couple of WRBA members here in Woodhaven that have a beautiful young pine tree in their backyard, and they are more than willing to donate it to be used as our new Holiday Tree.
In a column for the Times-Newsweekly, WRBA Communications Director Alexander Blenkinsopp notes: “Experts agree that moving relatively young trees is easy and inexpensive, and the Parks Department recently supported a plan to transplant dozens of huge, fully-grown trees to make way for the expansion of the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. So transplantation should be no obstacle here.”
So, all of the pieces are in place. It should be easy to get the right thing done. The question is, will it get done? The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association will stay on top of this and keep you informed every step of the way.
Meanwhile, come out to discuss this and other neighborhood issues at our next Town Hall meeting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, at St. Luke’s, 87-34 85th Street. A representative of Argus Cameras will be on hand to give a demonstration of how the NYPD surveillance cameras work. One of these cameras will soon be installed on Jamaica Avenue, courtesy of funding from Councilman Eric Ulrich.
Hope to see you there, and look forward to seeing you all this December in front of a real Holiday Tree.