NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- City environmentalists are furious over a decision to cut down dozens of Cherry Trees at Queens Borough Hall to make way for a multi-million dollar glass atrium project.
In the spring, nine Cherry Trees had been chopped down.
Officials claimed the trees were diseased and planned to replace them but the city was apparently caught in a lie by their own engineer, according to NYC Parks Advocate president Geoffrey Croft.
"Their own consultants said they were in good condition," Croft said.
Following what he called a "massacre," Croft said he won assurances from the city that the remaining 24 trees would be preserved.
"The borough president's office said that they would stop any further destruction of trees," Croft said, adding that the city backed down on that promise due to costs.
"The city's plan never allocated the funds to preserve these trees," Croft said. "What the borough president's office is saying is that they didn't have the funds to transplant them and to maintain them afterwards."
Alexandra Rosa, chief of staff to Borough President Helen Marshall, said the chances of a tree transplantation being successful were low.
"After looking at the age of the trees, the intricacies of moving it and the associated extra cost in their maintenance and ultimately their success of remaining alive after that was very questionable," Rosa said. "We went with the better outcome that it would be a more successful effort if we focused on planting new healthy trees, rather than some that are already at the end of their life span."
In April, an arborist evaluated the 24 trees and found "a number of complication factors" involved in transplanting the existing trees from Queens Borough hall, the city said.
The Queens Borough president's office and other city officials have said that they would replace the chopped down trees but Croft said it could take years to get them back to the way they were.
"You can't replace a living thing, that's absurd," Croft said. "These trees take many decades to reach maturity and it's really unfortunate."
Once the $17 million atrium project is complete, 50 new and healthy trees will be planted, the city said.
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