Upper East Side

Letter Says Ripped Down Birdhouses on NYC Street Were ‘Choking the Life' Out of Trees

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Colorful birdhouses installed on the trees along a New York City street were intended to be a charming addition amid the pandemic, but it has sparked outrage from at least one neighbor who says they're an eyesore and that they're "choking the life" out of the trees.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman was seen on video tearing down the handmade birdhouses on East 81st Street. In another displeased gesture against the art project commissioned by the Yorkville 81st St. Block Association, an anonymous, hand-written letter was posted on a lamppost, threatening them to not put the birdhouses back up.

A lengthy email was also sent to the neighborhood association. The email read, in part, "The constricting wires and zip ties that wrapped these objects around them tightly not in one but two places in each instance, were choking the life out of them, and yet, noone took notice."

The writer went on to say that as the method used to hang the birdhouses hurts the tree and prevents its normal growth, citing an article in the NYC Administrative Code that says "it is illegal and punishable by law for citizens to remove, kill or otherwise damage a street or a park tree, whether intentionally or accidentally."

It’s unclear if the author of the letter and email are the same person from the surveillance video. She has not been identified.

The block association says it won’t be intimidated by the letter and contacted police. However, they say the police told them the matter could not be investigated because it was a civil matter, not a criminal one. 

NBC New York reached out to the parks department to see if hanging things from trees is illegal and a department spokesperson only said a permit is needed. Neighbors say they have a hard timing believing the birdhouses hurt the trees.

"That letter seems kind of extreme to me," said Dutch Small of the Upper East Side. "Those birdhouses were such a delight to walk down the street and see and it was such a nice gesture from the person who put them up to spread cheer during Covid."

Another neighbor, Joseph Amarante, says he saw the birdhouses and they were "just wired around the branch, so there was no damage being done to any of the trees."

The block association says it plans to put new birdhouses back up at some point.

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