Southern Brooklyn

Morning Mug: Precarious Leanings


From the way this tree was leaning in this pre-Sandy photo, I wonder if it was one of the 8,000 trees that were felled by the storm.

Photo by Randy Contello

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  1. I think the worst leaning tree in all of sheepshead bay is on East 19 between Ave S and T. I’d say it’s at a 45 degree angle with the pavement. The Parks Dept. should be more proactive about getting rid of these trees.

  2. You cant easily tell when a tree is going to fall. There has been one leaning at 45 degrees at Hampton and Ocean for at least 5 years. It survived Sandy, but a 90 degree upright tree very close to it did not survive and came down.

  3. Trees lean like that because they have inadequate root systems that result from there being too much hard surface around them. Tree roots normally spread in a circle around the tree and should extend as far out from the trunk as the longest branches (ever heard of the drip line?). But when there is concrete or asbestos above, the roots won’t grow in that direction because there is no chance of getting water there. What happens is a) the roots grow straight down which does not counterbalance the top weight of the tree at all and/or b) they grow towards an open area that does get water. In this photo, the tree’s roots are growing towards the gardens of the houses because there is water to be had. With no roots growing in the opposite direction, this tree eventually starts to lean away from where there are no roots and then can fall in the direction it’s leaning if wind conditions force the issue. It will fall not because it’s leaning in that direction but because there are no roots on the opposite side to anchor it and prevent it falling. The Parks Department has somewhat learned this lesson and is making tree pits larger but because they can’t make holes in the street, it likely that beautiful large trees like the London Plane in the photo will become extinct as street trees.

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