By Mark Hallum
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has responded to statements made by Mayor Bill de Blasio at a July event in Flushing about a funding increase for the NYC Parks’ Trees and Sidewalks program, which helps homeowners assess damage to sidewalks due to city trees.
Avella laid out a series of suggestions to help the program be more successful in a letter addressed to de Blasio.
By calling 311 or filling out an online form, residents can have a Parks Department forester examine the site of tree damage and assign a priority rating for having repairs made. A total of $21.7 million will be put toward this program in the budget for fiscal year 2018.
“While additional monies for this program is a good thing, I cannot but question the timing of such an announcement given the upcoming election,” Avella said in his July 24 letter. “Unfortunately, your administration has not been responsive in addressing constituent City tree-related complaints.”
Avella recommended codifying the Tree and Sidewalk program into law and expanding it in terms of funding and eligibility for co-op and condo owners. He also said the pruning cycle needs to be increased from the seven-year cycle to every 10 years, and that the city should take responsibility for broken sewer and water lines because of tree root growth and damage to private property such as driveways and walkways.
“Our nearly 700,000 street trees beautify our neighborhoods, clean our air, and cool our environment. But as they grow, trees can also come into conflict with city sidewalks, creating inconvenient or even dangerous conditions,” de Blasio said at the July 20 event in Flushing. “Trees and Sidewalks supports homeowners by assisting them with sidewalk repairs – and this significant funding increase will make this program even more powerful.”
Other elected officials from northeast Queens weighed in in favor of de Blasio’s announcement.
State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) claimed complaints pertaining to city trees are common from his constituents and was enthusiastic about the increase in funding.
“Northeast Queens residents frequently encounter problems with trees that have damaged the sidewalk in front of their homes, creating a hazardous condition for pedestrians,” Braunstein said at July 20 event in Flushing. “This increase in funding to the Trees and Sidewalks program will ensure that NYC Parks has the resources necessary to respond to broken sidewalks in a more timely manner.”
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said the funding increase will boost efficiency in the Parks Dept. program.
“This funding will go a long way towards providing relief to homeowners whose sidewalks have been damaged by growing tree roots, as well as improving safety for pedestrians throughout Queens,” Vallone said. “This has been a concern for many of my constituents and now the Parks Department is better equipped to address these concerns in a quick and efficient manner.”
Avella is also hoping to pass a bill in the Senate to force the city to take responsibility for repairs to sidewalks damaged by trees under their care and include co-ops, condos and houses of worship in the eligibility for the city program.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall