By Ben Fractenberg
DOWNTOWN — Call it South Street Seaport's nightmare before Christmas.
Heavy winds blew down the neighborhood's 40-foot-high Christmas tree early Wednesday morning, and by the evening rush the Norway spruce was propped up with a crane as workers tried to get the tree to safely stand on its own.
"This was a force of nature event, it wasn't a support issue," said John Reilly, spokesman for South Street Seaport.
The tree fell at roughly 8:50 a.m. on Fulton Street across from the Guess store between Water and Front streets. No injuries were reported.
"I heard a snap and we all just ran to the window," said Crystal Beckum, 25, who was working at a retail store across from where the tree fell. "I couldn't believe it."
The tree broke about a fifth of the way up the trunk and came crashing to the ground with its lights still on, said witness Mame McCutchin, who works in the area.
Workers used a chainsaw to cut off the broken base of the tree while they waited for the winds to die down. After the winds calmed shortly before 3 p.m., they used a crane to hoist the tree into the air so that workers could chainsaw off the bottom branches to make room for the tree stand. They said they will attach cables from the tree to weights near the base to stabilize the tree.
Some passerby said they wished the Seaport would invest in a new tree instead of using the shorter tree top.
"They should just get a new one," said Carmen Vazquez, 44, who works nearby. "It looks so sad."
But Seaport officials said the tree would be remounted to avoid cutting down another tree.
The tree fell in front of one of two empty Abercrombie & Fitch stores that were closed in July because of bed bugs.
Tourists and local workers seemed to take the snafu in stride.
"Everybody's been walking by and taking pictures," said Beckum.