In this article by Paul Rieckhoff, author of The Green Giant, the New York City tree farm saga is once again a flashpoint.
This time, the story of a New York city tree farm has become a symbol of the country’s changing attitudes toward farming, as an angry neighbor is suing the owner and the city for the alleged abuse of power.
The case has become such a public spectacle that Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a week ago that he is launching an independent investigation of the incident.
But this latest round of anger is not just about the alleged mistreatment of a family with a tree.
It is also about what the city has done to a cherished American icon.
A Tree that Never Was The story begins in a quiet New Jersey village called St. Albans, where in the late 1970s, a group of residents were building a large tree farm for a nearby family.
For decades, St. Albinans had grown trees, but they had to move after the city banned the practice in 1990, saying the trees were too large and would ruin property values.
Now, though, the tree farm is flourishing, with some residents growing the large green giants that have stood as icons in the town for generations.
In the late 1990s, the city started allowing large, ornamental trees to be planted on public property and allowed the owners of these trees to sell them.
That same year, a young couple, Peter and Susan Bickerstaff, moved to St. Alban’s to start their new family.
But the trees started to be taken down, and in 2001, Peter’s wife died.
Susan died of cancer.
In 2008, Peter bought the land where his father had planted the trees, which he then sold to a neighbor who is now suing the city over the alleged use of the trees to build his home.
Peter and Susan were the first to sue the city.
They argue that the city did not have enough time to develop a plan to save the trees.
After the lawsuit was filed, a judge agreed and ordered the city to pay $30,000 to the Bickerstiffs, including $20,000 in legal fees.
In a separate lawsuit filed in 2010, the Bickerss say the city had violated a court order prohibiting the use of trees for residential use.
Last week, the family filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York, seeking to have the city pay the Benderss for the use and abuse of the property.
“They’re trying to destroy our tree farm and our culture, to the point where the only thing we can say is we’re afraid,” Peter Bickerstein said.
“They’re saying we’re trying our best to take our history, our traditions, our heritage, and they’re going to take everything away from us.”
As the Bicatorsons waited for the trial to begin, they were reminded of what they’ve been fighting for years: that the trees belong to the city and that the community is entitled to a say in the fate of the city’s public property.
They were also reminded that the tree farms are part of the New Jersey history.
While the Bignzers are the only ones fighting for the trees now, the idea of them being taken down from public property has always been in the back of the minds of many people in the community.
It’s not surprising that people who grew up around trees have grown to want the trees back, said Peter Bignzer, who was born and raised in St. Aubyn, New Jersey, a community in the Hudson Valley where trees have become an important part of local culture.
We’re the first generation in the last 100 years to grow up in a place where we have these iconic trees,” he said.
To the people of St. Alfons, who have roots in the history of the tree-farm culture, Peter Bierstein said, they should feel that way.
Not everyone agrees that the Biersses should be allowed to keep the trees as a symbol, though.
According to an article in the New Yorker by Sarah Larimer, the trees in question are not “a symbol of New York as a city or a state” and that “they are an object of cultural pride.”
Larimer also reports that the neighbors in question have called the Bierstills “a bunch of hippies.”
But the Bannersons and their lawyer, David M. Sanger, say the trees are a symbol that should not be taken away from them.
The case is being heard in federal district court in Manhattan.