BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Talk about having their work cut out for them. It's a seemingly endless task for crews at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, clearing storm debris from a 478-acre space with 8,000 trees. Tropical Storm Isaias was not kind to the more than 180-year-old cemetery.
"It was pretty shocking, this is definitely one of the worst storms we've faced since I've been here," said Eric Barna, Green-Wood's vice president of operations.
Green-Wood's manager of horticultural operations, Sara Evans, took us around the cemetery to see the damage and the crews in action. Many trees, some more than 100 years old, were no match for the storm's high winds.
"Right now, 30 trees that are absolutely down," said Evans, who added that they need to further assess other trees which are likely going to have to be removed because they are posing safety hazards. She estimates upwards of 50 or 60 trees will be lost in the end.
A staff of seven, with help from some contractors, has cleared roads and roped off areas deemed unsafe, to protect folks coming here for funerals and visitations, and the increasing number of visitors seeking open space during the pandemic. One team chips debris, another cuts larger limbs on the ground into smaller pieces so they can be chipped, and another removes hanging limbs that were cracked but remained in the tree, which can be dangerous. In the end, that's a lot of wood chips. They are donated to various community gardens and city parks, and they are used on site to mulch trees.
When Green-Wood loses trees during big storms, they naturally try and plant more. Since Sandy more than 1,000 have been planted, and more are on the way. The strategy is to bring in more diverse species of trees.
There are currently more than 650 unique species here, and the hope is to plant trees that thrive in Brooklyn's climate and are less vulnerable to storms.