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The Weeksville Willow Is No More

The Fateful Day: May 18th 2018, the Willow Comes Down

The last day of life for this 80 year old survivor, a stable reminder of the past through out decades of change for the African American community of Weeksville was Friday, May 18 2018.   The human who cut it down claims to own its home, nominally called 87 Schenectady Avenue by the City of New York.

Our Day In Court

About a dozen garden members had been in court a day early in a futile effort to block the destruction.   The judge threw out our case, a "show cause" order, because we had failed to serve the owner with a "summons and complaint".  It all seemed like the owner, his lawyer and the judge knew the outcome ahead of time.  We never got a chance to show the judge the beautifully enlarged photos of the tree we had brought to court.

The Weeksville Willow's demise was as quick as its life was long.   At about 10:30 AM,  an armada of men and machinery arrived at the site.   Among the assembled monsters were a boom truck. a wood chipper, two dumpsters and an especially vicious device designed to cut up the roots of the tree.   The owner apparently knew that willows will keep driving up new trees from their roots for months after the tree is cut down, so he clearly meant to eliminate that possibility.

Our Willow is No Match for Mechanized Might

The crew of about a dozen workers descended on the sleeping giant armed with ropes and chainsaws.   They began disassembling the 80 foot tall willow that had been a beacon of hope for decades for Weeksville, once an independent community of African Americans.   Piece by piece, two men, one with a chain saw, cut limbs off the willow and lowered to other men waiting on the ground.  They in turn hauled the pieces off to a wood chipper which chewed the limbs up and spat them out into a waiting dumpster.  Sections of the trunk too large for the chipper were dropped directly into another dumpster by the boom operator.  Meanwhile more men steered traffic away from the work and closed off the sidewalk lest anyone want to get to close to the destruction.  Local residents reacted with sadness and anger to see the willow coming down.

By 2:30 PM, the willow was only a memory.   I sense even the workmen had some idea of the travesty they were engaged in.  The tree expert told us the willow was rotten from within and would have fallen within a year or two.  They gave us the chipped remains for our garden as mulch.   From ashes to ashes, chips to chips.   They are now helping build up the soil of our remaining garden.  Still in service to our community.  As always.   Long live the Weeksville Willow!

Saddest of all: the lot remains empty!

The saddest thing of all is that now, fully seven months after the willow ceased to exist, its former home is still an empty lot.  The owner, once so eager to build, seems to have had a change of mind or lacks the funds to proceed.  Was all of this haste necessary?  How much longer will this once thriving garden remain a forlorn and empty lot.

A boom truck hauls away some of the last limbs.


A willow limb goes into the dumpster

A few leaves to remember you by.

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A neighbor weighs in.

It was a good fight.

A view from underneath the willow.

A view of the willow from Imani II.

When the Willow was a place to gather.

The Willow created a great space for youth in Weeksville.


What the garden site looked in January 2019


What is Permaculture?

Oscar and Greg in front of Tinto with bike cart and coffee grounds

Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.

It has many branches that include but are not limited to ecological design, ecological engineering, environmental design, construction and integrated water resources management that develops sustainable architecture, and regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

It has been said that “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”


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