Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Tree Fund"

Tree Fund Anniversary

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Sag Harbor Tree Fund Committee members Alexandra Eames, Mac Griswald, Shana Conron, Alison Bond and Adrienne Harris - joined by their canine pal Oonagh next to the Ulmus Americana "Frontier" tree planted in memory of David Neal Hartman in from of the Sag Harbor Cinema on Sunday, 7/27/14

Sag Harbor Tree Fund Committee members Alexandra Eames, Mac Griswold, Shana Conron, Alison Bond and Adrienne Harris – joined by their canine pal Oonagh – next to the Ulmus Americana “Frontier” tree planted in memory of David Neal Hartman in front of the Sag Harbor Cinema on Sunday, July 27. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Sam Mason-Jones

The Sag Harbor Tree Fund turns 20 this summer and will observe its anniversary with a celebratory party, taking place in the Book House garden of Tom and Lucille Matthews on Sunday afternoon, August 3.

For two decades, the fund has strived to preserve and perpetuate the village’s greenery, both by means of protecting established trees, and planting and nurturing younger saplings.

A brainchild of Sag Harbor author and historian Lois Underhill, the Tree Fund was conceived in 1994 with the aim of sustaining and documenting the village’s trees with a comprehensive inventory and starting a Commemorative Tree Program.

Two decades later, the fund is comprised of a nine-member committee, which has contributed 330 trees through this memorializing initiative. The trees, many of which have been marked with bronze plaques, are planted in memory of various loved ones, with some dogs, cats and even a horse commemorated in this most organic of ways.

As well as individuals, though, the fund has planted a number of trees to solemnize various historic events. With tragedies like 9/11 and Flight 800 that crashed off Long Island among the incidents commemorated, the trees also provide a history of the last two decades.

History also provides an important grounding for some of the trees, with several of Sag Harbor’s finest able to trace their heritage to some of America’s most famous trees.

The two Jefferson elms recently planted on either side of the Sag Harbor Elementary School were grown from cuttings of the enormous Jefferson elm that still stands in front of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., having survived the ruthless Dutch elm disease epidemic.

Similarly, a seed taken from a tree planted by George Washington at Mount Vernon was planted in the Nancy Boyd Willey Park, giving life to the tulip poplar that now grows at the entrance to the village.

The committee has faced a number of difficulties in its 20 years of activity. The bitterly inclement weather poses a frequently potent threat to Sag Harbor’s urban forest, with Superstorm Sandy of 2012 proving a prime example.

Alison Bond, a member of the Tree Fund, spoke of the effects of the hurricane upon the village. “The after-effects of Hurricane Sandy were insidious for Sag Harbor. Though hardly any houses were damaged, several trees were downed and the tidal surge, which flooded onto Bay Street and right along Long Island Avenue, was a disaster,” she said.  “Most of our commemorative trees planted in these low-lying areas became waterlogged or lost foliage from the salt-driven spray.”

Since recovering from this fallout left by Sandy, the committee has proceeded with a series of restorative projects, most notably the refurbishment of trees along badly-hit Long Island Avenue.

A part of the street has been lined with a procession of crepe myrtle trees, which have recently come into blossom. The restoration of this stretch, which runs between Howard and Glover streets, was completed by committee member and landscape gardener Ed Hollander, who named it “Jean’s Path” in honor of his mother.

The restoration of particular individual trees also represents a major undertaking for the Tree Fund, with recent eye-catching alterations particularly noteworthy. To coincide with the building taking place at the John Jermain Memorial Library, a commemorative tri color beech tree was moved from the building site to near the entrance of Mashashimuet Park.

Due to the success of this operation, with the beech looking particularly splendid in its new location, a permanent change of residence is now being discussed.

Looking to the future, committee-member Mac Griswold suggested that, above other things, assuring the longevity of the current trees is the priority of the Tree Fund.

“With the continued help of the village administration and our own efforts, I want our trees to grow tall and strong to shade and protect everyone who walks our village streets and lives in our houses. I hope we’ll be able to shape an endowment for the future”, she said.

The party on Sunday will mark a celebration of all these 20 years of work, which the Tree Fund is keen to share with the whole of Sag Harbor. It will run between 4 and 6 p.m., and tickets are $25 at the gate.




Terra Cotta Love

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Terra Cotta Pot

Whitney Hansen pot.

By Candace Sindelman


High art and gardening go trough in hand this Sunday, July 29, from 4 to 6 p.m. when the Sag Harbor Tree Fund holds its third annual benefit on the back porch of Cormaria Retreat House in Sag Harbor. The tree fund has planted more than 300 trees around Sag Harbor Village since December of 1993, 26 of them right in the heart of the business district, including the blue spruce which is decorated during the holidays.

Money raised from the benefit will help the tree fund continue their work which Shana Conron, a member of the organization, notes is important because it ensures Sag Harbor maintains a healthy tree-scape.

“Imagine what the streets would look like if the trees weren’t there,” said Conron.

“The atmosphere changes,” added tree fund member Alexandra Eames, who helped organize the event, “It’s like having a huge air-conditioner.”

At Sunday’s fundraiser, the focus will be on 24 artists and the terra cotta pots they have transfromed into works of art for use as display pieces or in the garden. The pieces will be offered for sale in a silent auction at the event. For those looking for a little something to put in their pot, raffle tickets will also be sold for a Phalaenopsis orchid from Bridgehampton Florist.

“It’s enormous and spectacular,” said Conron. “They bloom every year and are lovely quality. They were popular last year and we sold about 50 tickets.”

So why terra cotta pots? Tree fund event organizers note that, in keeping with past benefit tradition, the theme of this year’s fundraiser had to be garden or tree related. Past fundraisers have included sales of elm trees, and artistically painted watering cans.

“In the gardening world, there are just so many surfaces to work on,” Eames explained. “One of the reasons people come is they are not just getting a flower pot, but a signed work; a real piece of art.”

“These are artists that don’t ordinarily work with terra cotta pots, and that brings a sense of whimsy,” Conron added. “It’s amazing what the imagination of man is able to come up with.”

James McMullan, the illustrator well-known for his Lincoln Center Theater posters, contributed a pot that is based on his memoir about “Leaving Cheefoo.”

The artwork serves as a visual excerpt from his life. He was born in China, where his grandparents had settled after leaving Ireland. The piece depicts the seven-year-old boy during the onset of World War II, just before he and his mother moved to Canada.

Another pot was created by Sag Harbor artist Karin Strong and shows a dachshund chasing its own tail. Strong has been an oil painter for 20 years and was given the idea from her husband. A long-time dog lover, Strong has always been interested in animal behavior and thought it was such a funny concept.

“I couldn’t get it out of my mind,” Strong said. “I became a slave to the idea. Originally I wanted to do it in mosaic tile, but it’s a busy time of year and it needed to be done fast, so I did it in oil.”

“You walk around and you start to realize what’s happening, it’s like watching a story unfolding,” Conron said commenting on Strong’s piece. “There is a sense of motion and focus amongst daisies,”

Strong is proud to be a part of the benefit and said, “It’s a wonderful charity and a great thing to plant new trees in our precious town. It’s a great organization.”

Gahan Wilson, a cartoonist whose macabre work has appeared in New Yorker, Playboy and other magazines, had painted garrulous birds in oil on his pot while artist Dan Rizzie’s offering showcases stenciled flowers and leaves along with his signature bird imagery.

“All the artists are highly respected,” Conron said. “These are not amateur paintings. These are all professional painters with galleries. We’re very lucky that they are very generous and supportive. All the pots are extraordinary.”

Nicolette Jelen uses mixed media in her “Pot with Window to Mirrored Trees” where an intricate etching can be found.

Somewhat off the beaten track are pots which have objects inside them, such as the pot created by Marders Landscaping and Nursery with rabbit and frog puppets amid succulents.

Last year about 160 guests came to the event, and Eames and Conron expect an even stronger turnout this year.

“The entrance price doesn’t knock your socks off,” said Eames. “We wanted to make it affordable so the community will feel like they are able to come and take part in it.”

“It’s a beautiful spot,” Eames added of the Cormaria venue. “We’re having it rain or shine. It’s so peaceful, all the bustle is up to the left.”

And it’s all for a good cause. One of the biggest expenses for the tree fund are the green watering bags that are placed at the base of new trees to help them become well-established. Money raised from the benefit will help offset the cost of the watering program.

After a three year period the trees are handed over to the village for care. However, the Tree Fund is always willing to help out a tree in trouble, that is vulnerable or in need.

“We kind of babysit,” Conron said.

“Our founder’s statement is to restore, preserve, and supplement the public trees and shrubs without adding to the taxed cost for the village,” Conron said.

Eames said The Sag Harbor Tree Fund tries to diversify the “urban landscape” and to make up for all the unexpected mass removal of trees.

And when it comes to tree placement, it’s all about location.

“A lot of people want their tree to be planted at The American Hotel,” Eames said.


Tickets for the Sag Harbor Tree Fund benefit, which is Sunday, July 29, from 4 to 6 p.m., will be $20 at the door. Wine, tea, mango lemonade, sandwiches and sweets will be served. Cormaria Retreat House is at 67 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Bring cash or checks for auction and raffle.



Black Oak Falls on Jermain Avenue

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Tuesday morning the Village of Sag Harbor entrusted Ray Smith, a Southampton arborist, to cut down a 100-year-old black oak tree on Jermain Avenue. Despite two weeks of debate between village officials, residents and members of the Sag Harbor Tree Fund, just a handful of people — mostly village officials — looked on as the tree was felled and Smith’s own assertion that the tree was decaying from the inside out were confirmed.

However, it was not Smith’s professional opinion about the tree’s health that first sparked the debate over whether the Jermain black oak should be cut down or not, but rather two car accidents in the last six months involving the tree. In both accidents, the drivers hit the historic tree, which is located in front of Oakland Cemetery, flipping the vehicles onto the other side of the road. Both drivers had to be extricated by rescue personnel and transported to the hospital — one via helicopter — with injuries as a result of the crash.

Following the second accident, which occurred in August, village officials said an accident report signified a “notice of defect” in the eyes of the village’s insurance company. A “notice of defect” must be corrected, according to Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris, or the village stands to become liable without any insurance coverage. Ferraris said, having witnessed the scene of both accidents, that he viewed the tree as a health and safety risk to residents.

These concerns were only compounded by an initial report released by Smith on September 17.

“It is my opinion this tree is hazardous and should be considered for removal,” said Smith in the letter. “There are significant areas of visible decay for an approximately seven to eight foot length in the main trunk which leads me to conclude there is possibly more decay in the trunk … The tree has retained enough conductive tissue to support a healthy, heavy canopy which further predisposes it to failure.

However, last week, members of the tree fund, after reaching out to experts in the field, said decay in the black oak could only be determined by completing a coring of the tree with a resistograph.

On Friday, with the consent of Sag Harbor officials, Smith performed the coring to measure the amount of decay in the trunk of the tree. Ferraris said following the coring, Smith said he was amazed one of the accidents had not taken the tree down.

According to a report written on behalf of Smith, by arborist Jackson Dodds, there is a cavity in the main trunk of the tree, approximately 38 inches in diameter running an approximate depth of greater than 10 feet.

A day earlier, on Thursday, September 25, Sag Harbor Village officials were also furnished with a letter from the director of risk management, Robert Bambino, of New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal – the property and casualty insurer for the village.

“Based on a review of a letter issued by Ray Smith of Ray Smith & Associates concerning his evaluation of the health of the tree, and photographs sent to us showing its location on the roadway, we believe the tree should be removed,” said Bambino in the correspondence.

And on Tuesday, with little fanfare, it was.

Following the tree’s removal, Ferraris said other street trees in Sag Harbor were not at risk for removal — even those creeping into the street like the Jermain Avenue black oak. However, one hanging six-to-eight inch diameter branch, at Jermain Avenue and Palmer Terrace will be cut back.

“If we become aware of something else, we will look at it,” said Ferraris, adding that village clerk Sandra Schroeder will be working with the tree fund to come up with a formal policy on how situations like this are handled in the future.

The debate over the tree also led to a discussion about traffic calming on Jermain Avenue, with some residents asking for larger solutions to perceived speeding issues on the road, which has become a thoroughfare from Route 114 to the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike and Noyac Road.

On Tuesday, Ferraris said he had contacted the New York State Department of Transportation, which will provide the village with boxes designed to track the speed of vehicles on a roadway.

“It is the first step in gathering information on how we move forward,” he said. “We will have to see what comes back.”


Historic Black Oak In Sag Harbor Scheduled For Removal

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After a week of debate over the fate of a 100-year old Black Oak on Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor, village officials will remove the tree after receiving a report from a local arborist that deemed the tree a hazard.

For the second time in six months, on August 30 a driver hit a hundred-year-old black oak tree on Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor in front of Oakland Cemetery flipping the vehicle over onto the other side of the road. For the second time in six months the driver of the vehicle had to be extricated by rescue personnel and was transported to the hospital with injuries as a result of the crash.

And now the Village of Sag Harbor will remove the tree, to the dismay of some community members who saw a dual opportunity to save the historic tree and implement traffic calming measures on Jermain Avenue.

On Wednesday, Ray Smith, President of Ray Smith and Associates, a Southampton-based arborist, informed Sag Harbor Village Superintendent of Public Works that after his inspection he viewed the Black Oak as a hazard.

“It is my opinion this tree is hazardous and should be considered for removal,” said Smith in a letter dated September 17. “There are significant areas of visible decay for an approximately 7-8 foot length in the main trunk which leads me to conclude there is possibly more decay in the trunk. There is also a visible stress fracture that runs vertically up the length of the tree for approximately five feet. The tree has retained enough conductive tissue to support a healthy, heavy canopy which further predisposes it to failure. When a full canopy in a large tree such as this Black Oak is combined with significant areas of decay in the main trunk it significantly increases the chance of structural failure in high winds and extreme weather.”

After about a week of rumors churning in Sag Harbor that village officials were looking to take down approximately half-a-dozen trees because they posed a liability, mayor Greg Ferraris said on Monday the village planned to remove only one tree – the oak on Jermain Avenue.

“Last week I was informed that the village received a ‘notice of defect’ regarding the tree,” he explained in a written statement on Wednesday. “This ‘notice of defect’ technically puts the village on notice that it needs to remediate the situation that caused the defect. In speaking with our insurance representative today, if another incident were to occur at this location due to this defect, and the individual made a claim, there is a probable chance that the village would be liable without any insurance coverage. This scenario could already be in play due to the circumstances surrounding these horrific accidents.”

In addition to the August accident, where an East Hampton woman was transported to Southampton Hospital, a February accident led to a Sag Harbor resident being airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital for medical attention. There have been three accidents at the tree, said Ferraris in the last two years.

On Wednesday, Ferraris stressed that even if the insurance company had not become involved, after witnessing the scene of both accidents he believed the tree presented a health and safety risk to residents.

“I do not want to even begin to compare the seriousness of these accidents and the potential harm to the health and safety of an individual with the historic nature of this tree,” he said.

But on Thursday, during a historic preservation and architectural review board meeting members of that board expressed grave concerns at the prospect of historic trees being removed by the village.

“There has to be alternatives,” said board member Robert Tortora.

Village attorney Anthony Tohill said he had yet to be informed about the situation, but would follow up on the matter. He did add he has seen traffic calming measures implemented in cases like these elsewhere, rather than the removal of a tree.

On Wednesday, after hearing news that the village would in fact remove the oak, Mac Griswold, a member of the Sag Harbor Tree Fund, released a statement about the situation.

“Jermain Avenue between Main and Madison is a dreaded speedway, a bypass for Routes 114 and 27,” writes Griswold. “Children are told not to use it to walk to school. Now a century-old black oak arching over this residential street has been the scene of two accidents. An order is out for a take-down.”

Griswold goes on to question what factors the village considers in a decision like this and suggests that a traditional traffic calming measure known as a bump-out, where a curb is wrapped around the tree, could be implemented in this case.

“Our old trees close to or in the road should have bump-outs,” she said. “If we protect this tree now, instead of taking it down, we’ll save a tree, set a standard and slow Jermain.”

But according to Ferraris, village officials have already looked at a bump out and determined that this particular spot on Jermain Avenue is too narrow for the measure, and if installed would not provide a safe route for traffic in the eastbound lane.

And now, with Smith’s assessment on file, the village will likely move forward with the tree’s removal in the next two weeks.