Irene Knocks Down Controversial 80-Year-Old Brooklyn Heights Elm Tree

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Photo: Andy Mirer

It appears that the worst-case scenarios for the potential damage Hurricane Irene could cause in New York will not be realized. But local, small-scale damage has been done: In one instance, a huge and beautiful 80-year-old American Elm tree that had been controversial for years in Brooklyn Heights came down this morning at about 5 a.m., knocking down a tony co-op building's garden wall, crashing across Hicks Street, and coming to rest in the front yard of an early-1800s wooden house across the street. It appears to have knocked down the iron fence in front of that house, and may have crashed through the facade.

The 75-foot-tall tree, which was located in the front garden of the 107-unit Mansion House at 145 Hicks Street, had been threatening to topple for years, and its root system had been causing persistent leaks in the building's basements. But local love for the tree had convinced/forced the Mansion House's board to rescind a 5–2 vote to tear it down in July 2007. Instead, the tree was braced with cables.

Four years later, Irene was able to do what the board could not.