Subcontractors who were doing work on a street in Jackson Heights‘ historic district badly damaged the roots of trees along the sidewalk and were slapped with several fines by the Parks Department for working without a permit.
Residents and members of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group (JHBG) noticed work being done along 80th Street last week, including drilling down into sidewalks and cutting up trees, DNAinfo first reported. Len Maniace, president of the group, alerted Councilman Daniel Dromm, who contacted the Parks Department.
“A lot of people know that I’m a tree lover and I really believe what makes Jackson Heights a beautiful community is the trees we have and I’m very protective of them,” Dromm told QNS.
The block, between 35th and 37th avenues, is a part of the Jackson Heights Historic District.
The Parks Department immediately dispatched an arborist and forester to inspect the work and found that Verizon subcontractors had no permit and no arborist at the site, which is required for that kind of work.
They were issued four summonses for minor tree damage and one summons for illegal excavation. Pictures provided to Dromm show root and sidewalk damage.
“Trees are living, breathing parts of our communities which provide substantial benefits to our city, and as such, they are protected under city laws,” said Parks Department Spokesperson Meghan Lalor. “Failing to take the proper precautions when working around trees is a serious offense and can do irreparable damage to our urban forest.”
The Parks Department will keep following up with the contractor, who now has both a permit and arborist on site, to make sure they follow protocol.
According to the JHBG Facebook page, the contractors also did work on Roosevelt Avenue and 37th Street on Jan. 9. It was reported to the Parks Department but the department did not make it clear if the contractor had a permit by that time.
Dromm said that this kind of work is not surprising and has happened in Jackson Heights before. When he was first elected in 2009, Dromm said a cellphone contractor was installing antennas on an apartment rooftop with a crane but had not secured the sidewalks to warn pedestrians or drivers that equipment was being transported.
“I’ve caught other contractors for companies without permits without following proper procedure,” he said. “It’s outrageous and were not going to tolerate that type of thing in the community.”
A spokesperson for Verizon did not return requests for comment as of press time.