West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 8 | July 25 - 31, 2007

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Cut sections of the old English elm at Stuyvesant Square Park ready to be carted away last Thursday.

Ancient tree is cut down after branch falls on woman

By Lincoln Anderson

After a woman was seriously injured when a very large branch fell on her in Stuyvesant Square Park on Mon., July 16, the Parks Department cut the tree down. By last Thursday morning, all of the huge old tree had been chainsawed down in sections, with the last remnants waiting to be carted off in trucks.

An English elm, it was estimated to be between 235 and 300 years old, according to Cristina DeLuca, a Parks spokesperson. The branch that fell on the woman was “hollowing out,” DeLuca said. “We took the entire tree down except for the stump.”

The stump’s top was about 4 feet wide, giving an indication of just how enormous the tree had been. The tree was located right outside the dog run, and the woman had been sitting on a bench just below it with her Chihuahua when the bough dropped.

A Parks gardener who was supervising the end of the tree’s felling on Thursday said they found it to be “in serious decline” and that the top portion was “all hollow.” When she stuck her hand in that section of the tree, the wood was gooey, she said.

“It’s probably part of the old Stuyvesant Farm, before this was given to the city as parkland in the 1800s,” the gardener said.

The tree well may have predated the American Revolution, the gardener noted.

According to the Parks Department’s Web site, in 1836, Peter Gerard Stuyvesant — one of the richest men in America of his time — and his wife, Helen Rutherford, reserved 4 acres of the family farm and sold it for $5 to the city of New York as a public park. The Web site notes: “A few specimens of the original trees, old English elm and little leaf linden, still flourish.”

Last Thursday, Parks spokesperson DeLuca said the injured woman was scheduled for some surgery. She said the woman suffered both a broken arm and leg in the accident.

“We are constantly checking in on how she’s doing,” DeLuca said.

Asked if Parks is typically sued in such cases and what the outcome usually is, she said the department can’t stop someone from suing it.

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