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Thief Hacks Down 25-Foot Tree to Steal Bike, Locals Say

By Serena Dai | July 27, 2015 4:20pm
  The bicycle, which was just a few hundred dollars, was less of a loss than the tree, locals said.
Tree Slashed in South Williamsburg for Bike, Highlighting Need for Racks
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SOUTH WILLIAMSBURG — A thief sawed down a 25-foot tree to steal a bicycle locked to its trunk last week, according to locals.

Christopher Ryan said his friend locked a bike to a tree in front of 242 Grand St., between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street, overnight last week — a move Ryan acknowledged was illegal and carries a $1,000 fine.

When the two came back to get the bike the next day, the tree had been sawed down and left in the street and the bike was gone, Ryan said.

With scant bike parking in the area, it's not uncommon for trees to be the only option, he said.

"The tree was chopped up," Ryan said. "It was kind of horrifying. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that."

Ryan and other neighbors are now filing requests with the city in hopes of replacing the tree, which has been used for Christmas lights and birdfeeders in the past.

Ryan said the bicycle was relatively cheap, costing between $300 and $400. The loss of the tree was more upsetting, he said.

"It was very very sad. Very disheartening," he said. "I couldn’t believe somebody would do it."

Grand Street hasn't always been a tree-lined block, locals said.

It took years to get the city to plant trees in the area, and many were planted just a couple years ago, they said.

Resident Sunny Chapman said seeing the tree cut down was "upsetting," but it's not the first time she said she's seen local greenery get damaged.

As the neighborhood has grown, she's seen construction vehicles and beer trucks damage the relatively new trees. And many new residents are cyclists who attach their bikes to trees, damaging them with chains and locks, she said.

"We've had this explosive growth. Our infrastructure in general hasn't been able to keep up with it," Chapman said. "There is just not enough bike parking. They need to put up more bike stands, all over the neighborhood."

Some in South Williamsburg have been pushing for more bicycle parking. Juice shop Summers Juice and Coffee, located at 155 South Fourth St., has been trying to install a bike corral in front of the shop, but concerns over lost car parking have twice blocked the idea before Community Board 1.

Summers owner Chris Taha plans to apply again this year, saying that the bike parking situation in the neighborhood has gotten out of hand.

On Monday, nearly 10 bicycles were attached to two racks and poles in front of his store, he said. The trees on his block are older and wider, so cyclists don't lock up bikes against them frequently — but it does happen, he said.

"It’s severely needed," said Taha, who was shocked to hear about a tree getting sawed down.

Luke Ohlson, a Brooklyn organizer for nonprofit Transportation Alternatives, said he's never heard of trees getting cut down in New York before, but he's seen the bark of trees get worn down from locked bikes, exposing the trees to diseases and ultimately killing them.

The transit organization passes out hundreds of fliers to cyclists every week with tips, including not parking bikes against trees, he said.

A surefire way to keep tree damage from happening is to add more racks, he said. The organization encourages business owners who see a need for more bike parking in front of their businesses to apply online, he said.

"A great way to discourage people from locking things to things they shouldn’t be locking to is to put in bike racks," Ohlson said.