Not easy being green

Photos by Ron Leir/ TOP: Two of the Bradford Pears at Lake and Delafield Aves. slated to be taken down. BOTTOM: Some of the new Linden trees being planted at Kingsland Ave. and Van Eyk Court.


By Ron Leir


Lyndhurst may like to call itself “Bear Country” but, unlike several of its neighbors, the township hasn’t yet achieved an environment-friendly Tree City USA tag.

Among the 178 communities in New Jersey that share the pride of the green are Kearny, with 35 years of tree-hugging dedication; Nutley, with a quarter-century of service; and Bloomfield, with 12 years of distinction.

Indeed, in the past several months, Lyndhurst has been actively taking down trees – Bradford Pears – for safety sake. But recently, it’s been aggressively pursuing a more tree-friendly track.

Township Commissioner Richard DiLascio, who served as mayor until ceding the job to Commissioner Robert Giangeruso May 31, said in an e-mail written in mid- May: “We have been planting (street) trees for the last two weeks. Park Place, Chase Avenue, Post Avenue, Kingsland Avenue, Fern Avenue are currently in the process of receiving new trees.

“There are still in excess of 70 more trees staged in the County Park near our Little League fields. We are ordering more, but the spring planting season is almost over. The project will resume in the fall.

“By mid-next week we will have planted over 200 trees and the plan is (to plant) at least 200 more in the fall,” he said.

As an aside, DiLascio added that road resurfacing along Chase, Post and Fern were also scheduled to begin shortly.

An inspection of the Riverside Park staging area last week by The Observer, accompanied by township Public Works Supt. Richard Gress, showed only a handful of saplings remaining. The rest, said Gress, have been planted, either by DPW employees or by two private contractors, Uncle Matty’s of North Arlington and Pat Scanlon Landscaping of New City, N.Y.

The township has also benefited from having its own pair of resident Johnny Appleseeds: Steve Laudati, a landscape architect, and Thomas DiMascio have been volunteers in the cause of replenishing the township’s tree stock by visiting various nurseries to find the appropriate species that will endure in an urban setting.

Unaware of any current tree census in the township, Laudati said the township’s “goal was to assess what we’ve got now and go from there.”

“The urban forest in Lyndhurst has been neglected for a long time,” Laudati said. “So many streets are in desperate need of getting rid of ratty old trees. … But with support, we can take steps to reestablish the tree ‘belt’ – the land within the public right of way, from sidewalk to curb which people are responsible to maintain.”

“A lot of trees have been cut down in the last 15 to 20 years,” Laudati said, “whether because of disease or potential hazard,” or because some residents just didn’t want them because of roots cracking their sidewalks or for other reasons.

An example of that negative attitude manifested itself recently on a section of Kingsland Ave., Laudati said, where “one resident pruned four feet off the top of one of newly planted trees. It’s unfortunate someone would damage town property. … Once you cut off the top, a tree will never grow the same.”

Laudati said Lyndhurst has ordinances prohibiting the pruning of street trees without prior authorization of the township and “we need to do more to make residents aware of their responsibilities regarding street trees.”

Photo courtesy Steven Laudati/ The township used the area behind the Little League fi eld as a holding area for new trees awaiting planting.


There are, however, circumstances where tree cutting is justified, Laudati and Gress said, and that’s what the township has been doing in earnest with its hefty complement of Bradford Pears.

“We’ve removed 125 so far,” Gress said. “There are about 70 to 80 left.”

They’re being removed, Gress explained, because they pose a hazard to pedestrians and parked vehicles.

“Their branches are very long, all stretching from one point on the trunk, with all the weight in the center,” he said.“Water collects in the joints and rots it out and any wind can snap it.” Rainstorms pose a particular menace, he said.

“Since Hurricane Irene hit, on Oct. 29, (split Bradfords and fallen limbs) have accounted for 90 percent of our calls (to assist),” Gress said.

For the new shade tree plantings done this spring on streets where utility infrastructure work has been completed, Laudati searched out a variety of species from the Barton Nursery in Edison and from several nurseries in Maryland that would be “appropriate for each street” and satisfy the criteria of “urban and drought tolerant with a healthy canopy.” Having a mix “will avoid a monoculture of street trees that is more susceptible to suffer a catastrophic loss from disease or pest,” he said.

So, for example, Fern Ave. received varieties of Bald Cypress and Honey Locust; Kingsland Ave. got London Planes and Elms; Park Place and Chase Ave. are sporting Lindens. Some streets are seeing Sawtooth Oaks. The township has invested about $80,000 this year in the replenishing of trees.

In the fall, Laudati said, when the next batch of trees arrive, “we’ll get to the remainder of those residents who have asked for trees. We hope to be setting up something on the township website allowing people to donate or request a tree.”

Laudati said the township has applied to the state Div. of Parks & Forestry for a Green Communities grant to create a forestry management program, which is one of the conditions required of a municipality to qualify as a Tree City and which, he added, could open the door for more grants for tree planting.

The biggest advantage of street trees on residential streets, Laudati said, is “increased property values” because “tree-lined streets attract development.” And, of course, street trees offer shade and cleaner air and reduce stormwater runoff, he said.

“We’ve got to raise public awareness of their positive value,” Laudati said, “and to enable residents to have a better understanding of how they can help promote tree growth.”

Watering young trees is a good thing, for example, Laudati said, but “mulch volcanoes” are very bad “because it leads to decaying of the trunk.”

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