It was circa 1870 when a European elm tree was intentionally planted in a quiet southwestern corner of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It was late 2015 when the tree was declared dead and cut down.
This tree is one of the few things in NYC that had remained unchanged for that century and a half. Think about it. When planted, dirt roads, horses and farmland surrounded it. By the end of its life, it neighbored a gas station taking credit card transactions and nearly every person walking around it had a smart phone in their pocket.
Andrew Ullman, Brooklyn’s Director of Forestry, was the one tasked with making the decision to fell the tree after it had become a danger to park visitors. “18 and 24 inch limbs [had] been broken off in the hurricanes and tornados,” Ullman says. Upon interviewing Andrew, I had all but forgotten that tornadoes had recently touched down in NYC. I recalled a few years ago when I was riding my bike down Dekalb Avenue in Bed-Stuy and saw every tree in a two-block area decimated by a twister.
It was also Andrew who encouraged the Park Service to seek out RE-CO BKLYN to mill and dry lumber from the tree instead of chipping it to be sent to a landfill. We will then go on to build a custom conference table for the NYC Parks Prospect Park offices in Litchfield Villa with lumber from the tree. Andrew closes the interview with, “The worst thing we could be doing is just throwing this stuff in a landfill. One of the best things [ . . . ] we can do with it is mill it into timber and [ . . . ] build lasting products out of it.” Hearing this type of progressive thinking come from the NYC Parks Department is a major step in the right direction. We are passionate about keeping as many NYC trees out of the chipper as possible and especially focused on NYC Park trees because of the personal connection that the public has with the trees.
The process of felling the tree, breaking it down and transporting it to our facility took months of planning. A crane was used to help fell the tree, then two log trucks with cranes and a large loader worked together to get the logs onto multiple trucks. We rented a 60,000 lb. excavator to offload them upon arrival in our yard. When we first started RE-CO BKLYN, we were moving logs around with 2×4s and milling them with a chainsaw on the sidewalk. We could never have anticipated this.
This business is a constant surprise, so we’ll keep moving forward, anticipating the next adventure around the corner.
— Dan Richfield