NIAGARA FALLS – More than a dozen trees were pulled out of the ground near the new Niagara Falls Train Station, sometime between Friday night and Monday morning, according to police.
Police on Wednesday said 13 trees, valued at a total of nearly $10,000, were stolen.
Thomas DeSantis, acting director of planning, environment and economic development who has been overseeing construction of the $43 million train station, said none of the new trees were taken from inside of the complex, which has been fenced off.
“When I first got the call I thought someone had gone inside and got all the new trees. That would have been a terrible (loss.) This all happened on Main Street, from Ontario Street to Depot Avenue,” said DeSantis.
The city has not opened the station for business and has not signed a contract with Amtrak, but DeSantis said contractors are on the site every single day.
DeSantis said the city is “in the end game” in its lease negotiations with Amtrak.
The vandalized trees were mostly dead or dying, and some of them were going to be replaced, so the damage was less that it would have been if new trees had been lost, DeSantis said. He said no city employees had removed the trees.
DeSantis said the trees were planted as part of Phase II when the street and bridge were done in 2011 or 2012.
“We had plans to replace them because most were dead,” said DeSantis, but he clarified adding, “It’s a loss. It’s definitely a loss. Someone broke the trees or pulled them out. Whether they were alive or dead it’s still an act of vandalism.”
He estimated the value may be lower than $10,000, but he did not have a cost estimate when he spoke to the Buffalo News on Wednesday.
Construction Manager Fred C. Mills of Wendel Construction spoke to police on Tuesday after being alerted by DeSantis. He told police that nine trees on the east side and four on the west side in the 2200 block of Main Street were missing and the dirt was disturbed, according to the report.
Mills told police that when he left the train station on Friday afternoon the trees were there.