Plants Torn Out Outside Buddhist Church (Updated)

The caretaker at the New York Buddhist Church at 332 Riverside Drive between 105th and 106th Streets says a man tore out a prized hydrangea plant in front of the building, the latest in what he says has been a pattern of theft and property damage at the church.

The 24th precinct is investigating the incident, Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi tells us.

Update, 10:50 p.m.: A neighbor of the church has contacted us and said he was attempting to prune the tree, not vandalize it. He said he’s reached out to the caretaker.

“I am a certified “Citizen Pruner” living next door who regularly water the plants on front of our stoop. The plant in question was neglected for the whole summer to the point that all the leaves dried out and fell out.  After an abundant thundershower last August, some of the lower leaves sprouted back but the mid and top part of the plant was dried and dead to the point of no return. Once I realized that the mid/top branches were definitely dry/dead, I felt compelled to prune them back so that it can regain strength and thrive again next Spring. Obviously it will take more than one year to go back to the original size but that’s not because I pruned it. It is  because the plant was not adequately watered during the summer months and it dried out!  Also, an annual invasive vine had already wrapped around the mid-top crown.  I have apologized  for over-stepping but I would like to make clear that I pruned ONLY dead branches. Over 2/3 of the plant were already dead.  Maybe the caretaker, Karl, can share a video of the plant minutes before I pruned it so we can all see the leafless dry branches that were removed.”

Caretaker Karl Palma explained his take on what happened below (we have removed the videos, in part because they showed a woman and child who were not involved).

“Our temple has always been the victim of vandalization, from the donated copper staff to our Shinran Shonin statue (in 2016 it was meticulously crafted at a museum to…only in months, vandalized and cut in half…no footage available due to lack of cameras), to the vandalizing of our flowers and plants donated graciously from master horticulturist, Takeo Wong. We removed almost all of our plants due to vandalism and a possible structural imbalance to the platform of the statue.

Our Hydrangea plant which suffered many snippings over the years was recently chopped almost to extinction from who we believe are possible neighbors.

This hydrangea is a custom cross propagated plant created by Takeo, and is the mother plant to most of the hydrangeas on west 105st and Riverside. Early this morning I saw the plant sawed down and checked our CCTV footage. It happened yesterday around 5:40pm on 10/6 when I was out of the building.

Takeo estimates the amount of work to create such a plant to be around $4500.”

NEWS | 24 comments | permalink
    1. Steve Mustacchi says:

      Wtf? I hope the cops get an opportunity to interview this guy.

    2. Cathy Goldbas says:

      This is a terrible crime, posters should be put up to find these criminals!!

    3. LK says:

      Could someone explain what’s going on? The family takes time to cut the plant, water it, and clean up?

    4. Leda says:

      What do we think he was doing? It didn’t seem like he took anything. And the odd choice of music made it seem like a calm process, almost like he was tending to it. Any chance he thought he was pruning it safely?

    5. Sympathetic UWS neighbor says:

      This is heartbreaking. How can people be so destructive and hateful of their neighbors? Hopefully they can be recognized by responsible neighbors and police from the footage… there are a lot of clear identifying images. I’m so sorry to see this, Karl.

    6. Pro plant pro peace pro neighborhood says:

      Wow! Damning footage. This really counts as close to a hate crime type of vandalism. Has the culprit been identified? Is there any room for any kind of restorative justice? How did that hydrangea offend him and his family? Why would he (and his wife?) do such a thing? This neighborhood beef has much more to it. I hope there is reconciliation or reparation of some kind so that peace loving and plant loving neighbors can coexist.

    7. SunnyWestSide says:

      I don’t understand… could the guy be possibly just pruning the hydrangeas? He is watering them too.

    8. LL says:

      First of all -this man is pruning the tree. He is a certified citizen pruner (you can get that degree from the city after taking a course). He is with his wife and child in this picture (cut out) and contacted the temple through a note with his information. After contacting the temple, the temple posted his note on a poster outside and further tried to shame him. This is a very weird way to publicly ‘punish’ someone who may have made a mistake but has owned up to it and is fully cooperating with the owners. They really need to call off this weird public consequence and deal with the matter privately.

      • em says:

        THIS information is not actually correct. the note was placed by the person in question on the temple note board. This description is innacurate and misleading. it is another example of him placing objects or actions on property that is not his.
        The plant was on private property and ‘ citizen pruner” or not it is on private property.Apparently he is not aware of proper boudaries or the actual bylaws of the” trees new york citizen pruner code of conduct ‘ which clearly states ‘ this licsence does not allow you to prune any tree on private property’.

    9. B.B. says:

      Being a “certified citizen pruner” (whatever that may be), does not give anyone rights to trespass upon private property, end of discussion.

      “Upon successful completion of the final exam, students receive a license from Trees New York and NYCParks to legally prune NYC street trees.”

      https://treesny.org/citizen-pruners-stewardship/citizen-pruner-course/

      Regardless of good intentions things usually go this way; it begins with a hall monitor mentality then starts sliding down towards all sorts.

      • LL says:

        Not end of discussion. The end of the discussion should have happened when the neighbor contacted the temple to explain what happened. People are incredibly heightened and unhinged these days. We all need to take deep breaths (and perhaps start gardening-I hear the city has pruning courses)

    10. ST says:

      Am relieved this plant caper wasn’t vandalism. Congratulations to the “Citizen Pruner” for bringing the Hydrangea back to life. Condolences to the Buddhist temple for the many affronts it has suffered.

    11. ll says:

      So we have an overzealous neighbor, a negligent caretaker, a lack of cameras, and a rebellious hydrangea.

      • hambone says:

        You left out invasive vine which is metaphor in this great caper

      • UWSScaffold says:

        I think I once saw this all unfold in a Law & Order! episode…

      • rrg says:

        As a member of the temple I can assure you of two things:

        1) There is no lack of cameras. You may have missed the videos before they were taken down.

        2) The caretaker is not negligent. Imagine yourself, one individual, responsible for the care and upkeep of two connected buildings, one of which is very old and in constant need of repairs. Go ahead, imagine. I’ll wait…..

    12. Dan says:

      De Blasio forcing citizen pruners down our throats!

    13. mollyAndEddie says:

      If I had a $4500 hydrangea, it would have it’s own personal staff and security detail. I might even plant a few perennial cactus around it just to keep the riff-raff away.

    14. John says:

      Citizen Pruners should contact their neighbors before taking action on plants that don’t belong to them.

    15. John Abercrombie says:

      Anybody that knows anything about plants would know that you just have to water a Hydrangea and it comes right back. You don’t prune it. This “Citizen Pruner” is a dope. Go “prune” in Riverside park not on someone else’s property

    16. Ellen Jacobs says:

      Without permission from the temple, the neighbor- pruner was wrong. It is private property and the temple has been subject to vandalism as well , sources unknown for now. Pct 24 would do well to patrol RSD assiduously.

      • LL says:

        The hydrangea wasn’t on private property actually but on the city sidewalk as are many of the trees this neighbor prunes-you can plainly see this in the picture.

    17. Nj says:

      Why can’t they get a cheap camera for outside. My brother who is poor ha one where he lives because neighbors do things.
      No shaming upon letter recvd! End of story.

    18. Nj says:

      Plus hydrangea plant has to be pruned down to the stem to be full the following season.