QUEENS — Residents of a Kew Gardens apartment building are infuriated after dozens of decades-old trees and other plants were cut down in a lush garden located in the middle of their rental complex, a step the landlord said was necessary to renovate the space and provide tenants with a Central Park-like experience.
Tenants residing at Dale Gardens, a 103-unit complex at 84-17 125th St., said they received notices last Tuesday informing them that the landlord, Benedict Realty Group, was planning to renovate the internal garden and if residents placed any plants there, they should remove them, otherwise, they would be discarded, residents said.
The notice did not mention cutting down decades-old cherries, oaks, and pine trees, which offered shade and a hidden refuge where people liked to rest, residents said.
Last Wednesday, about 30 trees were cut down, along with rose bushes and other shrubbery, tenants said, adding that many birds and squirrels lost their homes and young offspring during the process.
"It looks like a tornado passed through here," Alex Ruck, 32, one of the tenants, said Monday.
Dale Gardens before and after its trees were cut down. (Courtesy of Renee Polgar)
“They ruined the best part of living here, I don’t even want to come home anymore,” said Renee Polgar, 44, who has lived in Dale Gardens for 7 years.
“All I wish is I had known they were planning to slaughter all those trees, I would have chained myself to one of the trees in protest,” she added. "I was crying when they did this."
Dale Gardens before its trees were cut down. (Courtesy of Renee Polgar)
The Great Neck-based BRG, which according to published reports, bought the two-story complex from Dale Realty Co. for $25.5 million last year, posted a rendering inside the complex, indicating that it's planning to renovate the garden, which will soon feature a pond, seating areas and pergolas.
George Shea, a spokesman for the company said, that the previous "garden had not been maintained" and "was underused."
Photo: DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska
Shea said that "a total of 28 trees and evergreens were removed."
"Many were overgrown, or in decline, and numerous trees were compromised, while some had grown too large for the space," he added.
The old trees will now be replaced by "19 new, large shade trees and 65 flowering trees, bringing the total number of trees to 84," Shea said.
The park will also include a meandering walkway "to provide an experience similar to celebrated parks such as Central Park," as well as a Great Lawn area where tenants can play and lay blankets for picnics," he said.
But tenants said the old trees, some of which were approximately 80 years old, had a lot of sentimental value for them.
“They’ve been here since I’ve been here,” said Peter Schiftan, 60, who grew up in the complex and has lived there since.
“This is where people used to socialize,” he said about the garden.
Mikhail Khaimov, 78, who has lived at Dale Gardens for 17 years, said the landlord cut down four trees and several rose bushes that he himself planted over the years.
“They destroyed everything,” he said. “They do whatever they want and they don’t care.”
Tenants were also concerned that the proposed pond would attract mosquitos in the summer time and that the company would use the renovation as an excuse to increase their rent.
Some said they already received letters that their lease will go up by as much as $200.
“The only reason why they are doing it is that we have low rents now and in order to raise them, they need to put money into renovations, said Stan Zvenigorodskiy, 41, a tenant for 25 years.
“We don’t need decorations," said his wife, Anna, as she held the couple’s 20-month-old daughter. "If you want to invest money, do a playground for kids, do something useful.”
As of Monday morning, only two old trees were left in the garden. Residents placed signs on them that read “Please don’t cut trees! They give us O2 and shade!” and “We need you tree.”
Someone drew a dollar sign on one of the renderings.
Photo: DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska