RED HOOK — The city is spending $3.2 million to remove and replace 3,600 Brooklyn trees still suffering the lasting effects of Hurricane Sandy.
The deadly storm damaged thousands of trees after leaving them inundated with saltwater, according to the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Tree removal began last fall and is expected to continue until October of this year, Jamey Hewitt, the agency’s Brooklyn deputy chief of operations, said at a public meeting in Red Hook Wednesday.
Every tree that’s removed will be replaced. New saplings should be planted by late 2016, he said.
The Parks Department is also exploring whether stress on trees resulting from saltwater damage has left them vulnerable to other infectious agents.
A fungal growth has been found in London Plane trees in Brooklyn within the last six months and the city agency is investigating if the spores are from the fungus Splanchononema platani, which is a possible cause a harmful disease known as "Massaria."
The city is looking into whether there is a correlation between salt damage and the fungus but that link has yet to be confirmed.
It was not immediately clear how many trees had been infected by the fungus.
“[It’s] just something we’re keeping an eye on,” Hewitt told DNAinfo New York.
The stress caused by saltwater damage could possibly leave trees more exposed to other disease-causing agents, said Bill Logan, founder of Urban Arborists, a company that specializes in plant and tree care.
“When a tree goes into decline, it becomes susceptible to all sorts of things,” he said, adding that on the other hand, the agents seeking a host plant might be repelled by the damage.
The fungus Splanchnonema platani has been previously recorded primarily in Europe, according to the United Kingdom’s Forestry Commission, which found that the fungal spores were associated with large lesions on trees.
The London Tree Officers Association released a report in 2013 saying that the fungus “appears to take advantage of branches predisposed by drought stress.”