Brotherhood Tree a headache

Brotherhood Tree a headache
Photo by Patrick Rocchio

The legal wrangling over the design of the new City Island Bridge is not the only controversy surrounding the project.

City Island’s Brotherhood Tree, a memorial to two local pastors, growing not far from the bridge and first dedicated by the community in 1968, may have to be moved.

City officials now say that two underground 20-inch-wide water mains may need to be moved before work begins on the new bridge, said Virginia Gallagher, chairwoman of Community Board 10’s parks committee.

City officials apparently believe the two mains run underneath the tree, dedicated to pastors Monsignor Edward Nilan and the Reverend Henry Coleman, she said.

The tree situation was discussed at a town hall meeting on the new bridge in September.

“It is a memento of the love that the people of City Island had to their religious leaders,” said Gallagher.

Since the water mains are underground, it is not clear where they run.

Based on New York State maps she has seen, Gallagher believes the water mains are closer to the bridge.

The tree is on City Island Avenue between the southern end of Catherine Scott Promenade and the nearby Seashore Restaurant.

The city Department of Design and Construction and the Department of Environmental Protection have indicated they are concerned that construction work on the new bridge may damage the water mains, cutting off water for City Island.
But the Brotherhood Tree, dedicated by local businessman Sam Bierman, founder of the island’s Temple Beth El, still holds great significance to many islanders, said Gallagher.

The tree is marked with a plaque, with “many people on City Island remembering the two pastors.”

It also appears the tree may not be able to be moved because it was officially dedicated as a city memorial in 1979 by then Councilman Steve Kaufman and a colleague, said Barbara Dolensek of the City Island Civic Association. Officially designated city memorials cannot be moved, she said.

Community Board 10 wrote a letter to the DDC expressing concern about the situation, said Gallagher.

DDC spokesman Craig Chin said that the agency is crafting a response addressing these concerns.

“We are looking into it and will write them [CB 10] a letter back addressing the concerns brought up at the meeting,” said Chin.

With the help of Senator Jeff Klein, the City Island Civic Association and Dolensek have filed a lawsuit to stop construction on the bridge pending a decision as to whether a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure is required.

Many City Islanders object to the design of the proposed bridge, which would have a large, soaring, cable-anchored tower. They charge it is out of character with the quaint New English fishing village look of the tight little island.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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