WILLIAMSBURG — After years of bearing holiday ornaments, inspiring folklore and acting as a gathering point for children's book readings and environmental groups, McCarren Park's white spruce known as the "Geraldo Tree" came crashing down in Hurricane Sandy's winds.
The tree, which locals said was planted by Brooklyn-raised journalist Geraldo Rivera more than a decade ago, was a hub that served as a gathering place for neighbors of all faiths and interests.
Now, locals hope to transform the trunk into benches and to plant a new sapling in its place.
"It was the 'Nondenominational Yet Festive Winter Tree,'" local environmentalist Kate Zidar said of the tree, where her group, the North Brooklyn Compost Project, and other community members would gather to trim and decorate its limbs each year. "It would be great to repurpose the wood into something used for parks."
Eric Arnstein — who recently hosted the park's first "Howl-O-Ween" canine costume contest — has proposed to turn the tree's wood into benches for the dog run, and said he is still awaiting a response from the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn and the Parks Department regarding his idea.
"McGolrick Park recently repurposed a downed tree in a similar way," he wrote to the Open Space Alliance's assistant director, Kurt Cavanaugh, who did not immediately respond to calls for comment. "It looks great, it's free, and it's a great way to repurpose the tree that lived so long in McCarren."
Christine Murray said the Parks Department's community liaison for McCarren Park promised that a new tree would soon fill the downed tree's space.
The Parks Department did not immediately respond to emails and calls requesting comment.
"It's been a center of that corner of the park, and the kids have played beneath it," Murray recalled, adding that she supports Arnstein's proposal for the benches. "It was sad it didn't weather the storm."
Neighbor Meredith Chesney, who also expressed a sense of loss at the fallen tree, reminisced about adorning its branches during past winters.
"We had really fun Christmas parties there that were open to the community," Chesney said. "I like the idea of a new tree going in, because it's a focal point."