So I step outside the house as the first snowstorm of the year hits Flatbush, and all hell is breaking loose in the street right in front of my next-door neighbor's house. A convoy of vehicles has swept in to plant street trees! The Bobcat digger here arrived on a flatbed truck; another truck bore a clutch of balled-and-burlapped trees; and the green dumpster down the street awaited the excavated shovelfuls of earth.
It was a blitzkrieg, all over in about 20 minutes after much shouting, gesticulating, and back-up beeping. A similar guerilla tree planting took place down the street last week; neighbors were stunned to discover a new tree sitting in a fresh surgical incision in their median strip. At right, a guy from the landscaping truck with the support poles for the sapling. Several of the Bobcats were zooming around, two heading for the next street over; it reminded me of a busy day on the ice planet Hoth.
The Bobcat lowered the rootball into place, and just one fellow maneuvered it into the hole. I asked a superviser with a clipboard what species it was; she checked and I believe said it was a zelkova. The Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata), according to the Arbor Day Foundation, is "a handsome tree with showy fall color, attractive exfoliating bark, and a symmetrical, vase-shaped growth habit. It makes a good street tree because of its dense shade, ability to grow in marginal soils and resistance to pests and pollution." (Yeah, we got those.) Our neighbors were told they got a honey locust, so at least we're not being locked into a monoculture of those blasted Callery pears.
I couldn't stick around long enough to see them fill in the hole, but when I returned later, the little tree was propped between its supports as if it had been there all its life. The funny thing is that several dedicated members of our block association have been bugging the city bureacracy for new trees for years...and now, just before Christmas, they arrive without warning!