Funeral held for dead tree in Queens

March 27, 1994|By Newsday

NEW YORK -- A tree died in New York City, so the Parks Department spent $1,000 on a funeral Friday --complete with a memorial stone, printed programs and black arm bands for the mourners.

About 60 parks workers -- all on the clock -- were among the mourners at a 45-minute service in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in the borough of Queens for a 63-year-old blue atlas cedar. The tree's roots exploded Thursday while contractors were trying to move it to another section of the park to make way for expansion of the National Tennis Center, officials said.

The tree was a gift to the city from the Japanese emperor for the 1964-1965 World's Fair.

The service -- which included memorial wreaths and an engraved 5-foot-high memorial stone -- raised questions among 100 mourners over whether such an expenditure was appropriate, given the tight fiscal constraints of the city.

But Stewart Desmond, spokesman for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, said: "It's not unusual for city employees to attend such ceremonies."

He also said that a sculptor donated the memorial stone and that the rest of the items -- including the programs and wreaths -- were produced "in house."

During the "funeral," taps was played, "Amazing Grace" was sung, and a eulogy was given by Parks Commissioner Henry Stern. The park's flags also were lowered to half staff.

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