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Tannenbaum Bummer

Why are trees so expensive this year?

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Christmas trees cost up to 30 percent more than they did last year at Manhattan’s sidewalk tree vendors. “It is the perfect storm; everything is closing in on us at once,” says Scott Lechner, owner of the Manhattan-based Christmas Co., which has three stands. One popular tree variety is the Fraser fir, but it’s grown in the Southeast, where a record-setting drought has cut into available supplies. The main alternative is the Balsam fir, most of which are trucked to New York from Canada. The surging value of the Canadian dollar makes those trees more expensive, and higher oil prices make it cost more both to transport the trees from Canada and run the generators that power their sidewalk stands. And then there’s always the ever-rising price of real estate. Although a 1938 law says tree vendors can operate, unlicensed, on city streets as long as they have permission from the property owner they set up in front of, the Parks Department runs an annual auction for choice locations adjacent to city parks. The priciest parkside plot—at Washington Market Park in Tribeca—went for $8,683 this year. Last year it cost a vendor $5,260.

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