One Less TRee on the East Side News

| 27 Jun 2016 | 03:30

A typical Monday morning of errands turned heartbreaking for Stanley Ely when he returned to his third-floor apartment on E. 77th Street and found the tree he’s viewed and loved for 40 years removed as part of an approved expansion plan for the Allen-Stevenson School.

“I went out around 10 a.m., came back around 1 p.m. and found the tree gone, not a shadow left,” Ely recalled with a mix of anger and sorrow. “What thrived for decades, around a century, through every kind of weather, killed in a matter of hours,”

Work on the project, which was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in January 2015, has begun. Facades for two townhouses at 126 and 128 E. 78 Street are being braced and saved, while the structures will be torn down and replaced by one five-story building to align with Allen-Stevenson’s current schoolhouse, in use since 1924.

School headmaster David Trower had expressed love for the tree but is confident that the expansion, which is to include facilities for teaching about science and the natural world, along with a new gymnasium, performing arts pavilion, greenhouse and expanded arts programs, will help generations of children.

Gerry Magpily, a volunteer under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s adopt-a-tree program in 2011, still cares for trees on 119th street and Madison Ave, and has a different take. “It’s a shame such a beautiful tree had to lose its life. The irony, of course, is that the school is expanding its science and ‘natural world’ programs in the new building. In an ideal world, it would have been nice to incorporate the tree into the final design. The saving of this tree could have been a good lesson of conservation and preserving nature for the students of Allen-Stevenson. “

Ely’s next-door neighbor, Blakeley Vaughn, is also grieving. “I’m disappointed that gorgeous tree came down this week, it was a sore morning and a time for mourning.”

Vaughan also called the event “ unfortunately inevitable” but gratefully adds, “we’ve been lucky to have the gorgeous tree this long.”

Ely concludes, “I felt like I lost a protective kind of friend.”