HUNTERS POINT — When Hurricane Sandy toppled half a dozen trees at beloved Long Island City playground Andrews Grove — known affectionately to locals as "Shady Park" — many neighbors were heartbroken over the loss.
But Milan Uherik, a longtime resident whose own children played at the park for years, thought he could give the fallen linden trees a second life.
"I got the idea to get the trunks and make something with it," said Uherik, the owner of Slovak-Czech Varieties, a gift shop at 10-59 Jackson Ave. that sells toys and specialty products.
Uherik asked workers at the park if he could take several discarded trunks from the downed trees home.
He dried the pieces of wood for a year, and then crafted them into wooden toys shaped like animals — a squirrel, a swan, an elephant — with pink painted hearts in the middle, which he's selling for Valentine's Day.
"It's a memory," he said. "Some people, they didn't take anything from the park."
Uherik, who said he's been working with wood for years since he was a teenager in Slovakia, crafts the toys by hand with a scroll saw.
They're made with the Shady Park tree wood, laminated with wood from recycled wine crates, and come as either a stackable wooden puzzle or as a rolling toy on wheels.
The "Wooden Heart Treasure" toys cost between $6 to $25 depending on the shape and size. Uherik also takes custom orders.
"I'm open for any ideas," he said.
The lost trees at Shady Park — which gave the popular playground its nickname — were replaced last November, when 10 new mature trees were planted.