My Very Fine Ash


I’M JUST AS PROUD as can be. I’m all puffed up with pride right now. It’s not that one of my kids has done something extraordinary, or even myself. No, it’s the ash tree in the backyard of my building in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

I always knew it one of the biggest trees in the nabe. That tree is 150 feet tall, I’ll wager. A real monster. (You can see its trunk in the photo above.) I remember seeing it from above, high above — from the observation deck on the 29th floor of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building when the tower was sporadically open to the public in the early 1980s and my daughter and I used to go up there to eat lunch and view the bank’s big clock in close-up. I’d look down on my house, a block away, and see nothing but a green cloud of foliage emerging from the rectangle of the backyard, bigger by far than any other green cloud for blocks around.

What I didn’t know is that my ash is so very fine — practically worthy of landmarking. I found this out in the aftermath of Irene, when my tenant on the top floor sent me some photos. The ash — perhaps it too should be given a proper name — had shed a few large branches in the storm. Again. It has a habit of doing that. We’ve had it taken care of from time to time, and it always costs a bundle.

IMAG0613By utter coincidence, one of the leading arborists in Brooklyn, William Logan of Urban Arborists, happens to live adjacent to that backyard, and he knows the tree well. So I called him on Monday and he came to take a look. There was a 30-foot- long, Y-shaped branch straddling the brick wall of the building next door; another had landed on the roof deck of a neighboring building on State Street — a building that happens to be right next door to the house where Bill has lived for more than 20 years. He could practically reach over and dispatch that branch, which is why I called him and not the tree service in Staten Island, which tends to be less pricey.

Bill came to take a look, and a few hours later, emailed an estimate with this note:

Dear Cara, It was good to see you again and to look at the big ash. I am glad that it did not suffer too serious damage. It is a very fine ash, one of the best I know of in Brooklyn.

Well. Can you see why I am so very proud? And pleased. My property’s value has probably just shot up like the Dow every other day.

Then he went on…

We will repair the storm damage and inspect the tree to make sure that no other branches have been cracked or otherwise compromised. We will also remove any significant dead branches over the neighbors’ property.

Here is the proposal:

To prune as described above one approx 40” diameter ash to repair storm damage, examine branches and remove major deadwood  $895.00


Ugh. I hadn’t asked Bill to examine the rest of the tree or take any prophylactic measures against further breakage. But ya know, it’s a very fine ash — one of the best in Brooklyn, I hear. It needs special care. It’s probably quite old. Venerable, even.

That ash is worth any price. Yes, indeed. That’s my very fine ash.

8 thoughts on “My Very Fine Ash

  1. That IS a very fine ash-and the price doesn’t seem too out of line to me especially if somebody has to climb that very fine ash.

  2. It now takes its rightful place among the wonderful old trees of Prospect Park and Flatbush. Wonder if it can be landmarked? A Tree Grows…


  4. Regarding your posting on your beautiful ash tree: $895 is A LOT of money to pay for looking at a tree, cutting a fallen branch into pieces, and hauling it away, FYI. We own a building that had numerous trees, one of which was a huge Pin Oak next to the front stoop. It was in need of some trimming when we 1st purchased the house, but we didn’t think it needed much – just removal of a few of the low-hanging branches near the bottom, etc. Being the silly, ignorant new homeowners that we were, we asked our Park Slope gardener friends for a referral & they suggested Urban Arborists. He came over & did his little song & dance around the tree, telling us how beautiful tree it was, how much he liked it, & that it was a simple job – for $895! It seemed like a lot of money, but we “wanted the best” so we went with it. So a week later, after being rescheduled twice, a couple of workers show up and spend about 2 hours on it, including grinding time, & leave with our check. Then about a year later, being the fools we were, decide it’s time to do the same with the trees in the back yard with Urban. Same thing – fancy song & dance around the trees, workers show up, don’t do much, & POW – $1700. later, all trees are trimmed. But here’s the catch: In 2010, the Brooklyn tornadoes happen. Two of the trees are severely damaged, one of them entirely splitting in half, which fell into our neighbor’s yard & did some damage to their renter’s property. They threatened to sue us, etc., but we worked it out eventually. But the trees were so damaged that they had to be cut down. Because the trees in back were all WEED TREES – with crooked trunks & spindly branches, we decided to take out ALL of the trees so we could finally have a FULL SUN garden. But this time we did the research & found a very reputable service to take care of it. The total bill? Less than $2000 – that’s less than $500 a tree! And not just to do a little trimming here and there with a snobby song & dance, but a REAL JOB – cutting down the trunks & branches in pieces, hauling then out, grinding them up, & a cleaning up the whole mess. A full two day job! Not just that, we also learn, from various other sources, that simply trimming a few branches & hauling it off is like a $3-400 job, MAX. So my suggestion is: DON’T give into snotty, Park Slope mentality of “Oh, I have to have THE BEST service for my beautiful tree” like we did – it will cost you WAY more than it should. We can refer our tree service to you if you would like as well…

  5. Hi Anonymous, yes, you’re right, $895 is a LOT of money, which is why I did a sardonic blog post about it, and yes, Urban Arborists are top-dollar. I’ve used them before, and I’ve also used Family Tree out of Staten Island. Family Tree seemed to start out cheaper, years ago… but later charged $750 to trim an overgrown Japanese maple (20 feet tall, tops), and $1,400 to remove ivy from a brick wall. There may be guys out there who are cheaper, but it’s important to me that my trees be shaped properly. This ash has two branches that are somewhat inaccessible. The job will require someone climbing 100-maybe 150 feet up into the tree. Thanks for your input, and feel free to recommend your tree service for future reference, but as regards my ash, the contract is already signed.

  6. Hi Elke, yes, that Japanese maple — a dwarf Japanese maple, supposedly, now grown quite bushy — was planted years ago by a tenant in a wooden box. They moved away, the box fell apart, we replanted the tree in the ground, and it lived on. It probably should be shaped and trimmed, and moved to a place where you can see it better, but so be it….

  7. Beautiful tree. And whatever it costs, think of it as a public service. Hundreds of people, over many years, will benefit from its daily grace out their windows. Perhaps a per capita amortization on that basis will soften the blow.

    On a brownstone layout note, can’t quite figure out the gardens/buildings. There seem to be many buildings on the left in the top photo. And a big extension on the right. Or is that a multi-colored extension the left? Can’t quite tell what’s avenue what’s side street. And are there communal gardens? Or does your garden run deep along both the extension and the backs of other buildings?

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