When extreme weather hits, the Conservancy's staff works hard to make Central Park safe and accessible as quickly as possible. Following Superstorm Sandy, the Conservancy's eight-member Tree Crew began work in the Park immediately. "If a storm subsides at 10:00 am, we're out by 10:05," said Peter Haupt, the Conservancy's Tree Care Supervisor for Contracted Services. Every one of the Park's 693 acres of land was inspected for damage after the storm. Every tree surrounding each of the Park's 21 playgrounds was inspected individually. After the first survey of the Park, inspections are continuous. Our tree experts looked for cracked trees, hanging limbs and uprooted trees, determining which trees needed to be pruned and which were so damaged they had to be removed.
Over 800 trees in Central Park were damaged or destroyed by Sandy. Our Tree Crew tracked each one using GPS and marked the location of damaged trees on a map of the Park. Removal procedures varied depending on the size of a tree, its location relative to other Park features and the extent of its damage. In a dense area of growth, branches, limbs and even trunks have to be removed piece by piece, brought to the ground by lowering lines, bucket trucks or a 60-ton, 150-foot crane.
Conservancy staff began work before Sandy hit. Damage in extreme weather is random, and nothing can stop high winds from damaging some of the Park's more than 20,000 trees, but the Conservancy takes all preparatory steps possible. In the days before Sandy, our staff lowered water levels at all of the Park's water bodies to avoid flooding. Sandbags were placed in flood-prone areas. Water drains were inspected and cleared to assure smooth drainage. And contractors, hired by the Conservancy to assist with tree cleanup, were called to ensure that recovery could begin immediately after the storm.
During major storms, Central Park, at the order of the Mayor, is sometimes closed to the public. We want to thank everyone who waited patiently as the Park has reopened completely in the past weeks. With the help of twelve teams of contractors, hired and supervised by the Conservancy, our staff is on schedule to complete the first round of post-Sandy work in just over two weeks after the storm. A second round of inspections for less severe damage will begin when the first round of recovery is complete.