QUEENS — After Hurricane Sandy toppled half a dozen trees at Hunters Point's beloved “Shady Park,” many residents were left in tears.
But it took only three days for them to organize “Friends of Shady Park,” which is dedicated to bringing their park back to its former green glory.
“It’s really part of the heart and soul of the community,” said Sheila Lewandowski, who lives across from the park and playground on 49th Avenue and is a member of the group. “It was one of the most beautiful parks here and it served generations of residents.”
Lewandowski said the group, which already has more than 200 members on Facebook, plans to raise money and work with the Parks Department to plant news trees to replace the lindens and other beauties that were whipped to the ground by Sandy.
But not just any trees will do.
Organizers are hoping to plant mature, 30-foot trees that will immediately offer a shade canopy similar to the one they lost.
“We want it to be a shady park again, not a sunny park,” Lewandowski said. “We think it can be done — it’s just much more complicated.”
Lewandowski recalled hearing each of the 50-foot trees fall after being lashed by the wind as Sandy struck.
“I really miss them,” said Lewandowski, as she and other neighbors snapped pictures of workers chopping up the trees Thursday morning.
Julpha Yap, a 56-year-old nanny, said she plans to send the photos to some of her former charges, who moved with their parents to Hong Kong in August.
“I want them to see the place where we used to come to play every day for four years,” she said.
The park, officially known as Andrews Grove Playground, opened to the public in 1932 and quickly became one of the neighborhood's favorite gathering places. It is where parents, nannies and children found shade on hot summer days, but also where many community events, family reunions and birthday parties were held under the soaring trees.
“Without these trees it will never be the same,” said Vern Jn Baptist, 30, a nanny who has been coming to the park for more than two years. "The trees were like an umbrella. With sprinklers on you wouldn’t even feel how hot it was."
She said the little girl she is taking care of, Zora, was very upset when she saw that the trees were gone. “No one even called it Andrews Grove,” she said. “For us it was our Shady Park.”
A spokesman for the Parks Department said the agency "would welcome any proposal by community members looking to help us restore the foliage of Andrews Grove to a state more befitting its 'Shady Park' moniker."
But he said the neighborhood may need to be patient as Mother Nature restores the replacement trees to their original grand scale.
"[As] tree experts, we plant younger trees from our nurseries as their shallower roots allow them to be transplanted with much higher odds of success," he said. "As younger trees they are more likely to survive the trauma of being moved to a new site."
Nursery trees usually start out about 7 to 10 feet tall.