Truck Rams Tree on West 55
Sanitation truck 25DD-561 rammed a 42-year-old tree on West 55th street this evening at around 6:30 PM, splitting the tree in two. No one was hurt but the tree, located at the entrance to 321 West 55th, won't survive. FDNY Ladder Company 28 had to cut the truck free from a large, dangling limb that had fallen over it. Traffic was blocked for over an hour.
Holly T phoned to tell me what had happened across the street from her apartment. She said it sounded like a big boom. She thought someone had run into the building. I went down to the street and saw Jane C from 321. She said she was working at her computer and heard a loud crash. Another resident of 321 told me he felt his apartment shudder.
I spoke to one of three sanitation workers standing next to the trapped truck. He immediately claimed that the problem was a "low-hanging branch." This attempt to deflect responsibility infuriated me because I know that tree and it did not have any low-hanging branches. Also, as one of the photos below shows, the truck hit the tree so hard, it split in two some 6 feet or so above the truck's roof (seen in white).
I pointed this all out to the sanitation worker, who then blamed the position of the bike lane, which he said forced the garbage trucks to move so close to the curb so as not to block traffic. That still doesn't excuse hitting a tree, of course--especially with such force.
The sanitation worker also wondered whether snow plows would be able to get through West 55th during a snow storm with cars parked on both sides of the street and only a single lane in the middle.
I can't help but think that if DOT had done a study before they made West 55th the main east-west bike lane, they might have anticipated some of these issues. Also, if they had painted the loading zones in front of 310, 321, 340 and 345 as they had promised back in August, the truck might have had more room to maneuver.
The crew of Ladder Company 28 did a great job making the tree safe so that none of the dangling branches would fall and harm people below. They first tried to lift the heavy main branch off the truck so that it could drive away, but it became obvious the truck was so entangled that any further movement would have ripped the whole tree out of the ground.
The firefighters then cut up the dangling limbs piece by piece with a chain saw. They even cut up the branches once they had fallen and stacked the wood on the sidewalk. I asked the sanitation guys if they would take the wood but they said they picked up recycling only, not tree limbs. So a regular garbage truck will have to pick up the tree limbs.
George T has offered to help in a campaign to get the Parks department to plant a new tree. I'm told the best thing to do is to tell the Parks department the old tree is dead and that we want a new one planted. Otherwise, if we ask them to remove the tree, it will take six months or more to plant a new one.
Please let me know if you have photos/video from last night that you'd like to share. Video is available on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/west55ba/