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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Art Vatsky June 10, 2013 at 10:56 PM
It is odd that so many are saying the same thing and the photos indicate it too: Where are the diseased, weakened parts of the tree?
Richard Gilbert June 11, 2013 at 12:46 AM
I'm an engineer that designs and inspects timber structures, so yes, I can say with some amount of expertise that the wood I could see was sound.
zizi June 11, 2013 at 01:46 AM
The tree was generating the cash.... simply put....... The question should be why a tree growing on private property is even a concern of so many? the owner decided to get rid of them.... and they did.... stop the fuss..... already.......
Debra Passner June 11, 2013 at 02:01 AM
The tree coming down made me sad for my children and the others from our synagogue who loved to play under it. Seeing these comments adds to this sadness to think that there are people in our community who assume some nefarious motive here. The County assessed the tree. The County decided there was a danger to my children and the others who play under this tree as well as to everyone who drives down Cedar Lane. I hope those of you commenting will take the time to read the record and get the facts rather than try to be divisive.
Who Is John Galt June 11, 2013 at 03:21 AM
Sureally ridiculous. It is just a tree!!! Must be nice to have no more important concerns!!!
Bettina Hempel June 11, 2013 at 04:58 AM
To Who Is John Galt: If you do not care about a beautiful healthy looking 300 yr old tree getting cut down, then why are you writing so many comments on various posts?
Tom Abbott June 11, 2013 at 05:47 AM
Teaneck's government was not involved in the decision to cut the tree. The decision was made by Bergen County based on the opinion of the expert the county hired. The opinion was backed up by experts the Puffin Foundation hired to get a second opinion. Perhaps you should read the article before forming an opinion and demonstrating your ignorance.
Tom Abbott June 11, 2013 at 06:05 AM
More ignorant drivel. The owner was no more involved than Teaneck's government in this decision. The "owner" had been a supporter of keeping the tree and had written in support of designating the tree as an Historic Site to preserve it.
jackie miller June 11, 2013 at 12:09 PM
It's a good time to check our own backyard trees for decay and over growth .... Many town tree need to be trimmed so you don't have to duck underneath the over growth ... or have your view blocked at intersection because of bushes not trimmed back....
Tee Smyth June 11, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Tom, why are you so antagonistic? Isn't it possible to disagree without the name calling?
zizi June 11, 2013 at 01:42 PM
Tom: are you proclaiming to be all knowing?
JamesTS June 11, 2013 at 01:47 PM
Actually Tom is correct. THe COunty decided to cut down the tree and Puffin (tree huggers) AGREED with the county after their own report was done. People should really be forced to READ articles before making comments with misinformation as FACT. The Patch and Bergen Record have written so many stories about this tree you should really educate yourself before speaking.
Laura I. Zucker June 11, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Here is a statement from the Bergen Record (Local News Section, front page, paragraph 6 and I quote word for word "When the final piece of the trunk was removed- a portion that weighed 20,000 pounds-it appeared to vindicate the county's concerns: The section contained a hollow wide enough to fit one of the tree cutters." The Puffin Foundation has been one of the greatest supporters of the Old Red Oak tree, including backing up their support financially. Their own Tree Expert agreed with the County's findings that the tree had to be cut down and that it could not be saved. For all of the people who feel that the tree was healthy, call the Puffin Foundation and tell the directors how they were duped by their own specialists. Remember, the Puffin Foundation is paying for the (hopefully successful) cloning of the tree. Yes, development can come to that corner and yes, some people on this page may or may not be pushing the Walgreen store- However, the reality is that the tree was diseased and needed to come down.
Lynda Kraar June 11, 2013 at 02:55 PM
It's great that artists get a shot at breathing new life and meaning into the remnants of the tree. Meantime, do check your own trees. I had a beauty at the top of my driveway that tipped over with a "swoosh" and took part of my roof, all of my car, most of my pine hedges, and some lighting with it. Who knew?
John Santaella June 11, 2013 at 04:45 PM
This is a great location for what? Cedar Lane is on a hill. From the Hackensack River up to Queen Anne Rd. When are we going to learn that there is no there there on Cedar Lane. As far as I know the lot where this tree stump stands upon is NOT for sale and we can't just jump in and declare it available for development. The tree is gone. It is now history. We can talk until the cows come home and it's not going to change a thing. What is left of that tree will generate money for someone. There is a lot of good lumber there.
Art Vatsky June 11, 2013 at 04:53 PM
Trees are like any other living thing. They begin, grow, mature and then whither. Maybe this respected tree is a symbol for all of us. Most of the wood does look healthy but this tree has seen age, hardship, acts of nature and mankind. If the tree had internal weaknesses at key locations, how is the public to know?
Esther Sandrof June 11, 2013 at 04:59 PM
The location is lousy for development. Parking is an issue in that area and its not large enough to accomodate a modern retail storefront plus parking, the grade of the site makes it difficult to developer and the location is subpar - look around- the site across Palisade Avenue was renovated and has been vacant for 5 years or more. There's a parking lot across Cedar Lane - on a site that is larger and more level. Yes, it is used as parking for the bank, but if there was demand for a higher and better use, parking could have been accommodated in a building. Fact is that the retail vacancy rate on Cedar Lane is probably approaching 30%. We need a lot of things on Cedar Lane, but among the things that we don't need is a new chain drugstore. Several years ago a Walgreens in the old Foodtown parcel failed probably because it was poorly located relative to CVS. Is this proposed Walgreens an attempt at corporate revenge. It may serve the honchos at Walgreens and the developer who will get a fee, but it does not serve Teaneck well at all and will not help to attract tenants to the other space because it's a convenience use. People drive in and drive out.
gonflo June 11, 2013 at 05:26 PM
too late for regrets
John Santaella June 11, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Amin Sister, Amen.
tom mccarton June 11, 2013 at 06:23 PM
they left all the wood in long pieces, which means there going to sell it for a ton of money. Not only did it cost God knows how much to cut down the real money maker is in the selling of the wood.A 350 year old solid piece of red Oak is worth a small fortune!
shimon baum June 11, 2013 at 07:15 PM
And judging from your comment stupidity can type.
John Santaella June 11, 2013 at 08:19 PM
It's on its way to a mill to be cut into lumber.
gonflo June 11, 2013 at 08:53 PM
i was thinking about that too... wonder if it can be turned to mulch.. i would have bought some of it if sold.... and apply that money for other things teaneck needs...i am pretty sure many would not mind having a a piece of "historical" tree on their yards.
Tom Abbott June 11, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Again we see nonsense from Lisa Dee based on no real information. If the owners were interested in building on the site, they could. They have stated that they have no such interest.
John Santaella June 12, 2013 at 01:59 AM
No mulch for most of this baby although that which was turned to mulch will also be sold. It's a darned good market for this type of hardwood.
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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