One of New York City's Biggest Trees Gets a Second Life as Furniture

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Brooklyn's Prospect Park works with RE-CO BKLYN to save its largest tree from the landfill by milling it into furniture grade lumber. RE-CO BKLYN will then go on to make custom furniture for the people of NYC from the lumber.

Milling the tree's 89″ diameter logs into lumber.

The worst thing we could be doing is just throwing this stuff in a landfill.

When a massive European Elm tree in Prospect Park died in in late 2015, the NYC Parks Department asked RE-CO BKLYN to mill it into lumber and make furniture from it. Most of NYC’s felled trees get chipped and sent to a landfill that is often hundreds of miles away. Turning this material into lumber and furniture cuts down on the environmental burden of disposal and stimulates the local economy.

The century and a half old tree was located near a footpath at the intersection of Coney Island and Caton Ave. It was planted circa 1870, shortly after construction on the park began. Over the course of the tree’s life it grew beyond 7 feet in diameter and more than 75 feet in height.

Brooklyn’s Director of Forestry, Andrew Ullman, was tasked with the decision to fell the tree after it had become a danger to park visitors, dropping up to 20” thick limbs onto a nearby sidewalk.

While fallen trees in New York are routinely wasted, local woodworkers are paying a premium for hardwoods at lumber retailers. This material is of an unknown origin, usually cut from perfectly healthy trees in forests often hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Ullman encouraged NYC Park Services to seek out a renewable option for the massive tree’s trunk. At that point they reached out to RE-CO BKLYN, New York City’s only sawmill that sources raw material from locally fallen trees. RE-CO BKLYN operates as a lumber yard and furniture shop out of the Bushwick/Ridgewood area. In exchange for the material, RE-CO BKLYN will build a live edge conference table for the Prospect Park offices in Litchfield Villa.

The process of removing the tree from the park took months of planning. A crane helped to fell the trunk, two log trucks with cranes worked together to get the logs onto multiple trucks, and finally, a 60,000 lb excavator was used to unload the tree for milling. The 3” thick slabs are now air drying for a period of up to 2 years before a brief time in a dehumidifying kiln. At that point the lumber will be ready for production of fine furniture.

In a fast paced city like New York it is easy to overlook the quiet passing of a tree that has stood as many years as the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Fortunately, the NYC Parks and small businesses like RE-CO BKLYN are working together to honor this European Elm which has grown directly into New York’s vivid history.

Find out more at http://recobklyn.com
Read our blog article about this tree at http://blog.recobklyn.com/nycs-largest-tree-lived-in-prospect-park/
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Dan Richfield
RE-CO BKLYN
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since: 05/2013
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