Park regulars take up their usual places to chat on the benches in Maria Hernandez Park. The city reopened the gates after three weeks of cleanup after the recent tornado. — Photos by Yury Bekerman
Three weeks after the tornadoes of Sept. 16 smashed through parts of Brooklyn and Queens, the Parks Dept. is still hard at work trying to clear fallen trees and other debris from public spaces, but today, Bushwick’s Maria Hernandez Parks was reopened to the public. Fences and playground equipment have been repaired.
Workers removed a total of 51 trees from Maria Hernandez, the majority of which were Oak and London Planes, according to Parks official Meghan Lalor. The wood was chipped on site and will be used in flower beds around Brooklyn. Over 70 trees remain, and replanting of recently denuded park land, particularly at the corner of Suydam Street and Knickerbocker Avenue which saw the most mature tree damage, will begin in the spring.
The park couldn’t be repaired and reopened fast enough for Bushwick residents.
“The park damage is absolutely heartbreaking to me,” said Valerie Soles. “My son and I go there every day and I was looking forward to bundling him up and having him out every day all winter long!”
Others just miss their green views.
“The park was lush and now it’s barren. There were many shady spots and now most of them are gone with the trees,” said Yury Bekerman. The park-front resident is depressed by the destruction and thinks the city should divert the nearly half a million dollars set aside for the upcoming dog park toward planting more mature trees. “Don’t get me wrong, I think the dog run is a great idea, but I’d rather have a park everyone will enjoy.”
It’s not yet clear if the Forestry Dept. plans on including more mature trees in its replanting scheme for Maria Hernandez or Irving Square, which also sustained damage to its larger trees.
Before the damage could be more closely assessed, City Council member Erik Dilan had speculated that playground repairs could cost millions between Maria Hernandez and Irving Square parks and the recently renovated Bushwick Playground on Putnam Street.