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Removal of City Hall cherry trees in Schenectady leads to muted blooms

Removal of City Hall cherry trees in Schenectady leads to muted blooms

Trees removed to make way for restoration project
Removal of City Hall cherry trees in Schenectady leads to muted blooms
Three patches of mulch cover areas in front of City Hall where cherry trees were taken down Friday.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

SCHENECTADY — Cherry trees in the city are nearing peak bloom.

But observers will find the scene in front of City Hall on Jay Street, ordinarily a shock of pink and white, decidedly muted this year.

The city removed most of the cherry trees last July, resulting in a dramatically altered landscape.

“They were removed so the city could perform our window restoration project,” City Engineer Chris Wallin said. “Under that contract, all of our original windows in the building will be removed, restored and replaced.”

With the help of a consultant, the city determined six trees were located too close to the building to perform the work effectively, prohibiting the installation of equipment and rigging.

The trees were so close, in fact, Wallin said city workers would prune them from indoors. 

Three cherry trees remain outside of the main entrance. 

The $1 million project will replace roughly 100 windows and is currently out to bid.

Wallin acknowledged the pleasant springtime vibrancy produced by the trees, but said cherry trees, in particular, require vigilant pruning and maintenance to keep under control, and the city hadn’t always performed the work.

“They started to really obscure the front of the building, which is a historically significant building," Wallin said.

That wouldn’t happen in front of White House or Executive Mansion in Albany, he said.

The trees were not original to the building’s construction, and were planted in 2005 to commemorate Arbor Day by Re-Tree Schenectady, a non-profit organization that plants trees around the city.

Re-Tree Schenectady spokeswoman Betsy Henry said the group has planted numerous cherry trees around the city, and the trees in front of City Hall grew faster than anticipated. 

“They actually grow quite vigorously, so they need frequent pruning for size and shape," Henry said.

While the trees in the Electric City don't have the same draw as their counterparts in Washington, D.C., whose famed trees are the focus of a festival each spring, residents and visitors do enjoy the blossoms each spring, Henry said. 

“They’re gorgeous trees,” Henry said.

Stockade resident David Giacalone first documented the changed landscape in photos he shared with The Daily Gazette and city officials.

“I’ve always been pleased to share my Schenectady City Hall cherry blossom photos, especially with folks with whom I do not always see eye-to-eye,” wrote Giacalone, an outspoken critic of city policy.

“Trust me, there is plenty I feel like saying,” Giacalone said. “And, lots of excuses I do not really want to hear.”

Wallin said the city will weigh landscaping to replace the removed trees once the restoration project has been completed, but any new topiary would be as planted as part of a broader long-term project on City Hall grounds. 

And if trees are replanted, they will not be as close to the building, he said.

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