Centuries-Old Tree Cut Down in Teaneck

Tree dubbed "living witness" to local history removed after decades of preservation efforts

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.


Have photos of the massive oak tree? Click "upload" to share them with Patch readers 

Related News: 

  • Experts Agree Centuries-Old Teaneck Tree Should Be Removed
  • Massive Oak Becomes Teaneck Historic Site
  • Weinberg to be Honored for Saving Centuries-old Teaneck Tree

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John Santaella June 12, 2013 at 02:58 AM
@gonflo, the person who took the tree down will reap the reward of sold mulch and lumber.
John Santaella June 12, 2013 at 02:46 PM
I believe that mulch bought at a garden supply store that is bagged has been treated. Buying from a local guy who may get his mulch from tree services is a gamble though. Not saying the guy did anything wrong though.
Marc Smith June 16, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Debra Passner, You claim that you are saddened that there "are people in our community who assume some nefarious motive here." Yet, did you not accuse the previous owners of a "nefarious" motive when they wanted to cut down the tree? Will you apologize to them?
Tee Smyth June 20, 2013 at 05:59 PM
There is a very interesting Letter to the Editor in the Record today from Rabbi Ronald Price. It was interesting to hear another perspective. Here is the link: http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/212271661_Teaneck_letters__June_20.html?page=all
Tom Abbott June 20, 2013 at 11:15 PM
"Two arborists and the town DPW had agreed that the tree was already at a threat level of no less than 8 on a scale of 12." is taken out of context. Far more important but omitted from the letter is the conclusion of the arborist which states, "In my opinion, the tree should be saved and managed." The report produced for the township is available at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0DpwAC0Rt77MmU1YWQ3MjYtMjdlOC00MDUyLTg5ZjYtOGJmMDA3OWFkMDZi/edit?usp=sharing The report includes the Hazard Rating. The scale is from 3 to 12. The primary cause of the high rating, 4 out of the 8 points) is simply a measure of it's location right on Cedar Lane.


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