NYC Parks leads tree action in wake of hurricane Sandy

Former Camden tree officer leads New York parks department's response to hurricane damage.

New York: city’s trees battered by hurricane — before (left) and after - image: NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
New York: city’s trees battered by hurricane — before (left) and after - image: NYC Department of Parks & Recreation

The damage caused to New York's trees by Hurricane Sandy has led to an unprecedented emergency response by the parks department.

Just days after the largest Atlantic hurricane on record hit the east coast on 29 October, New Yorkers had made 11,267 reports of tree damage, with 7,000 for downed trees. The storm has cost more than 100 lives and left tens of thousands homeless.

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation director of tree preservation Matt Wells told HW: "This is a massive emergency response effort citywide. NYC Parks is the lead agency for managing tree emergencies as part of the broader efforts to deal with all the damage caused by Sandy.

"We are currently working on a 24-hour shift pattern and have forestry specialist staff including myself working within the activated emergency operations centre at the Office of Emergency Management."

The former Camden tree officer, who has worked for NYC Department of Parks & Recreation for almost eight years, said: "We have 2,284 trees confirmed as destroyed. This number will continue to grow over the coming days as we continue to inspect. The main priority is to remove trees blocking streets, trees from wires and trees on people's homes.

"In the field we have 80 inspectors using handheld units. We also have 90 forestry crews (bucket trucks and loaders) working to clean up the damage. These crews are supported by smaller crews doing clearance work."

Wells added: "NYC parks works very closely with other agencies and utility companies to produce a unified response to the incident. This is coordinated and supported by our Office of Emergency Management."

The department has set up three grinding stations to process debris and will be working on clearing trees for another month.


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