CHELSEA — Neighbors on West 20th Street want to root out a tree vandal who has been seen scratching and pulling off the bark off trees on the block.
Chelsea resident Sean Morrison was walking down West 20th Street a little over a week ago when he noticed someone had defaced a number of trees on the street, between Ninth and 10th avenues.
Within a few days, the marks and gouges had started to appear on other trees as well.
“They all take place at the same spot, same height,” he said. “It looks like somebody is going around slashing the trees.”
On a recent visit to the block, more than a dozen trees on the street had visible scratches and bare spots where bark had been ripped off, about four feet from the ground.
The Chelsea Garden Club, which plants and maintains gardens throughout the neighborhood, has placed several signs on the block asking passersby to look out for the culprit responsible for maiming the trees.
“Please Help. Someone is killing our trees!” the signs read. “A man has been seen gouging the bark and heavily cutting the trunks of all the trees along 20th Street.”
“If you see him doing this, please take his picture and call the police,” it added.
A spokeswoman for the 10th Precinct said neither she nor officers at the precinct had received any reports about the tree slashings.
Members of the club did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
But city Parks Department spokeswoman, Crystal Howard, said on Tuesday that the department confirmed the damage after conducting a "cursory review of the trees."
Some of the damaged trees are "already on the mend" through "natural healing," she added.
“Destroying the protective bark and the cambium (inner skin) layer of a tree can expose its sap, a tree’s lifeblood, to parasites and fungus, which can have harmful long-term effects,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email. “Parks asks that you call 311 if you witness anyone damaging our trees.”
Morrison, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, said he hadn’t seen the culprit the Garden Club referred to in its fliers.
He wasn't sure why the trees on his block are being targeted.
“It’s a bit of a mystery,” he said. “Who could hate a tree?”