A massive red oak tree that has stood in Teaneck for centuries was cut down Monday after tree specialists determined it presented a safety risk to pedestrians and motorists in the area.
As heavy rain fell, a small crowd gathered Monday morning to snap photos of the historic tree's final hours. Meanwhile, workers from Downes Tree Service fired up chain saws and cut into the 250 to 350 year old oak’s limbs. Pieces of the tree, at Cedar Lane and Palisade Avenue, were tossed into a wood chipper while larger limbs were hauled away. Some of the wood was set aside for use in county parks and by local artists.
Tree crews worked nearly all day in pouring rain to remove the oak at Cedar Lane and Palisade Avenue. In the end, only a stump and thick layer of sawdust was left.
A tree expert hired by Bergen County, which was responsible for maintaining the tree, determined the oak was unsafe and must be removed. The county's report pointed to termite damage and decay, some of the damage caused by a lightning strike and road widening work done years ago, according to .
A county spokeswoman has said experts examined the tree in a standard review prompted by Hurricane Sandy.
An independent report commissioned by the Puffin Foundation, which donated $100,000 to maintain the tree in 2011, later agreed with the county’s finding. Officials are working to clone the tree and will keep its stump for possible sprouts in the spring. Bergen County is also set to erect a chain link fence around the stump for up to two years to protect any sprouts on property owned by Congregation Netivot Shalom, according to a plan released to Patch by county officials.
"The County, in consultation with the Puffin Foundation and the Netivot Shalom, Inc., will erect a commemorative plaque at the corner of Cedar Lane and Palisades Avenue," the plan states.
News that the tree must be removed came only months after the town council bestowed historic status on the oak, which has been called a "living witness" to hundreds of years of local history. Efforts to save the towering oak date back more than two decades and have involved a senator, town officials and groups of local residents.
"The tree was standing before the birth of our nation and before George Washington's retreat over the Hackensack River at Historic New Bridge Landing and, as such, is a remnant of a rural landscape that contributes to the historic character of the Township of Teaneck," the council’s February ordinance stated.
In 2010, the Division of Forestry designated the tree as New Jersey’s fourth largest oak tree. Township residents, including decades ago, and the senator has championed efforts in recent years to protect the oak. The former property owner sought to chop down the tree, but faced an outcry from residents.
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