Monday, September 20, 2010

Tornado Aftermath: A Walk Through Forest Hills With Greg Godfrey

Community advocate Greg Godfrey of Forest Hills, and President of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World's Fair Association, has provided the aftermath photos of the 125 mph tornado which hit Forest Hills on September 16, 2010. It was classified as a macroburst, which is more potent. Never has anything so intense struck our "home sweet home." Within minutes, our landscape was forever changed. What we mourn most is our street trees, parks, and privately owned trees that owners treated with TLC. Such beauty was the result of a lifetime, but let's be thankful for what we had and still have. A tree is a blessing. There is no official count yet of trees lost, but the city predicts thousands. Chairman Michael Perlman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council features Greg Godfrey's pictorial documentary, and we extend our gratitude to a dedicated individual and our friend.....

MacDonald Park, Forest Hills...absolutely destroyed. 85% or more of the trees are down. This historic park, named after WWI veteran, Captain Gerald MacDonald, is in the midst of bustling Queens Blvd featured a most impressive tree canopy. It was a retreat and a foliage lover's dream.
MacDonald Park, Forest Hills...absolutely destroyed. 85% or more of the trees are down. This historic park, named after WWI veteran, Captain Gerald MacDonald, is in the midst of bustling Queens Blvd featured a most impressive tree canopy. It was a retreat and a foliage lover's dream.
Forest Hills Gardens, south of Station Square. Greg Godfrey explains "People were weeping, and 100 year old trees are gone. Massive damage. Emotional and physical. What was most moving was how many people were just walking around emotionally stunned by the amount of trees; the amount of 'our living neighbors' we lost. The smell of sap and chopped wood and leaves was everywhere."
Forest Hills Gardens: Trees occasionally fell against early 20th century homes, or into the road throughout the neighborhood.
Greg Godfrey states "People kept gathering and talking about the loss of their sylvan towers. It was like a funeral."
Forest Hills Gardens: Circa 101 year-old tree uprooted in park.
Forest Hills Gardens: Trees plunged, holes in roof, door blown off.
Forest Hills Gardens: Minor damage to these historic trees, considering the scale of others in Forest Hills.
Forest Hills Gardens: Burns St off Ascan Ave facing park. The unheard of!
The signature Kennedy House on Queens Blvd, Forest Hills. Massive windows were shattered and doors blown in.
The Landmarked Ridgewood Savings Bank on Queens Blvd & Continental Ave. The beautiful pine tree is a shadow of itself. Historic and iconic amber windows were shattered and being replaced 24 hours later.
Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills: A disaster!
The Continental Apartments on Queens Blvd. This was an inspirational mature tree like the one on the right, but snapped at its trunk. The trees likely dated to the 1920s when the first Continental Apts was on site, or earlier.
70th Road, Forest Hills: Virtually all the trees are down. They dated to the 1920s or prior. A frequent site throughout the neighborhood is crushed cars.
Queens Blvd towards 70th Rd. This was once a tree-lined block. The few trees that remained received a massive pruning. The Continental Apts lawn on the right had a huge pine tree, likely planted in the 1960s. We always remarked about its beauty. It was one of few in Forest Hills.
Yellowstone Blvd off north side of Queens Blvd. This building had full trees in front. Now there are none.
The Weeping Willows on 108th St in front of famed architect Philip Birnbaum's series of presidential buildings was an ICON of Forest Hills. It was planted circa 1940s, & gave a pastoral setting. It inspired local artists. Heartbreaking how such a healthy tree was uprooted. It was 1 of a pair in front of this building's circular driveway. Greg Godfrey states "This was my favorite building on 108th street, and it had a magnificent Weeping Willow... now gone. Many people paid their respects, and recounted how this was their favorite tree."
Greg Godfrey states "My old building had massive trees surrounding it. Now all the apartments will have bright light." The award-winning Kelvin Apts were designed along with other 1920s buildings on 108th St, & one of their key features were the communal gardens and their trees.
Where there were trees, there are now none. This is outside PS 303 in the Cord Meyer section, which was settled in 1906, predating the Forest Hills Gardens by 3 years. Some of the trees were presumably that old.
A downed traffic light & lamp post arm on 108th St.
"David's Garden" at Flushing Meadows - Corona Park. Greg Godfrey states "I personally removed all of the debris on the road and in the garden till about 9 PM last night. Luckily, Flushing Meadows - Corona Park did not have the scale of damage found at Forest Hills, although it is still very emotional."
Tornado in Forest Hills: Full series of aftermath photos by Greg Godfrey

Tornado 2010: A Personal Account by Michael Perlman:


  1. I pray they do some replanting, especially that Willow...I looked at it every summer..It was an inspiration and should inspire more Willows to replace some of the trees we lost. Such a tragedy.

  2. I work in Bushwick, across the street from the Maria Hernandez Park. I couldn't believe the devastation when I got there on Friday. It was very surreal.

  3. I live in Kew Gardens and walked home from Queens Blvd via Jewel Avenue about an hour after the "event". I was shocked by what I saw . I posted a video I shot the next morning which shows some of the devastation on my street in Kew Gardens... I also have hundreds of photos which I took the next morning.
    I work in Manhattan and soon realized that my co-workers had no real idea of what had taken place. Words cannot describe the depths of this tragedy...sadly Forest Hills and Kew Gardens will never be the same in my lifetime.

  4. Anonymous, I will speak with the building owner and management of the James Madison on 108th St, and encourage them to plant a new Weeping Willow, although it will never be quite the same. A tree grows with us over a lifetime, and when we lose it, especially in such a way, we lose a part of ourselves. Our neighborhood loss an arbor symbol.

    Bonnie & Jon, thank you for your comments and for posting surreal videos spanning Brooklyn to Central Queens. Indeed, "Words cannot describe the depths of this tragedy. When I began surveying Forest Hills after it happened, a few branches were down on my block and 1/3 of a tree nearby. I felt bad for that alone, and couldn't visualize what was awaiting my discovery mere blocks away. I spotted perfectly healthy, mature trees, but uprooted or chiseled off, and my stomach cringed. I will help in the campaign to plant new trees, and may they prosper!

    - Michael Perlman

  5. Debra Glassberg SchofieldSeptember 27, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    I grew upon 73rd Road in Forest Hills and went to P.S. 101 in the Forest Hills Gardens. It breaks my heart to see your devastating pictures. I hope the town will replant the trees! I live in Northern California now, among the redwoods and have watched Pt. Reyes recover from a massive fire and seen the baby redwood trees begin the cycle again.