“Today is a great day for our urban forest,” said Parks first deputy commissioner Liam Kavanagh.
First found in Greenpoint in 1996, the beetle was a major threat to trees across the city, but especially in city parks.
Native to East Asia, the wood-boring pests quickly spread, attacking numerous hardwood species of trees, including Maples, Elms, and Willows.
Adult beetles deposit their larvae inside the tree, which can total 100 per beetle. The larvae tunnel through the core of the tree and cut off its nutrient supply, eventually killing the tree.
“It didn't look like we would ever be able to overcome it,” said Kavanagh. “I actually thought we would have to learn to live with it, which is a really horrible thing to think about when you consider half of the hardwood trees in New York were susceptible to the pest.”
McCarren Park lost 121 trees, or roughly 60 percent of the park’s mature trees.
“The Asian Longhorn Beetle almost destroyed people's psyche because of all the trees that it cost and the loss,” said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.
Efforts to eradicate the beetle began in the 1990s, with infected trees immediately cut down and turned into wood chips.
In 2013, Manhattan and Staten Island were declared beetle free. In Queens and Brooklyn, a quarantine was enacted that year to avoid infested wood from being transported to non-infested areas.
The last confirmed sighting of the beetle in New York City was in 2010.
Unfortunately, the beetle has not been fully eradicated from other parts of the state, including areas on Long Island from Massapequa to Amityville.
“We have to make sure that other parks plan to do the same thing,” said Lentol. “If they see an infestation, they have to go after it right away. There is no living with it, you just have to take the trees down and get rid of them.”