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Neighbors call on city to ask them if they want trees or not

By Juan Soto

To plant or not to plant?

That’s the choice northeast Queens residents want to make when it comes to the city planting trees in front of their properties.

Neighbors are opposed to the Bloomberg administration’s Million Trees Program. So far, according to the program’s web page, the city has planted 914,165 tress throughout the five boroughs.

“Homeowners should not be forced to accept a tree in front of their homes,” said Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose Hillside Civic Association. “The Parks Department cannot adequately take care of the existing trees.”

Wind and other community leaders took the issue to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayisde), who reached out to the city Parks Department. According to the lawmaker, the city agency said street tree planting locations “within the public right of way, like other infrastructure, are not determined by the public or adjacent property owners.”

Homeowners pointed out trees break sewer lines, they push up sidewalks, stumps are not removed, and some property owners have allergies.

Avella said although the city does remove trees, the administration “does not take responsibility for all those things. The city leaves a huge financial burden on the owners and that’s unacceptable.”

A spokesman for the Parks Department said the municipal agency receives hundreds of requests every year to plant trees on neighborhood blocks.

He said the tree maintenance includes pruning about 60,000 trees every year.

“While trees do add aesthetic values to the neighborhoods and increase property values, we primarily plant trees to cool temperatures, clean the air and capture stormwater in order to make communities more resilient,” the spokesman said.

The budget for pruning for the 2015 fiscal year increased by $1 million to $4.45 million.

Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village, said the city should rethink its tree planting and pruning policies.

Glen Oaks Village “is fortunate to have more than 1,000 beautiful street trees. Unfortunately, these trees at times need to be pruned at the bottom so that they do not impede pedestrian movement,” he said.

Community leaders also call on the city to allow homeowners to prune low-hanging branches. “If you can reach it, you can prune it,” said Friedrich.

The Parks Department, however, said it allows residents to prune low benches and street trees, but there is a catch.

Neighbors who want to prune must be trained. They have to sign up for the Citizen Pruner, a program led by Trees New York, an environmental nonprofit organization.

“We all love tress,” Avella said. “But homeowners should have the ability to say no if they don’t want a tree in front of their homes.”

however, said it allows residents to prune low benches and street trees, but there is a catch.

Neighbors who want to prune must be trained. They have to sign up for the Citizen Pruner, a program led by Trees New York, an environmental nonprofit organization.

“We all love tress,” Avella said. “But homeowners should have the ability to say no if they don’t want a tree in front of their homes.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto‌@cngl‌ocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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