Avella calls Parks Department’s response to tree survey ‘disgraceful’

Avella calls Parks Department’s response to tree survey ‘disgraceful’
Photo by Gina Martinez
By Naeisha Rose

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has called the Parks Department’s response to his constituents’ complaints regarding city tree conditions “shameful.”

Avella distributed a survey to his constituents in February about the condition of overgrown city trees in his northeast Queens district. More than 1,250 people responded, which prompted Avella to send the location of hundreds of troublesome trees for the Parks Department to inspect.

At a news conference last Friday the senator said that after a few weeks, the Parks Department responded with a list of 65 of the locations he had submitted, instructing the homeowners to call 311. Avella, who called 311 “barely capable,” said instructing constituents to call the city help number is “disgraceful and a clear dereliction of duty.”

Avella immediately sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell Silver and the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York to call out the Parks Department response as negligent.

“I’m almost at a loss for words at how disgraceful this response was,” Avella said at the news conference. “For them to completely ignore an elected official’s complaints is absurd. God forbid one of these trees, which have now been reported to them as problematic, injure someone or damage property. The mayor and the Parks commissioner will be personally responsible.”

Avella said that the trees were brought to Park’s attention because of the dangers they posed to New Yorkers and that the agency’s handling of these complaints furthers the notion that the de Blasio administration does not care about the residents of northeast Queens.

The initial survey was sent to homeowners throughout parts of Senate District 11, which covers parts of Bayside, Whitestone and College Point, and asked them to evaluate the condition of city trees in front of their property or on their block.

Of the 1,250 homeowners who responded, the results revealed that 66 percent said they feared for their safety as a result of a tree on their block. Nearly three-quarters — 71 percent — said they were completely unaware of the Parks Department’s “Tree and Sidewalk Repair Program,” a free citywide program that shifts the burden of responsibility for damaged sidewalks due to city tree roots back to the city for repairs.

Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor said that the letter sent to Avella was their responce to the first 65 letters and that they will continue to respond.

“Calling 311 routes tree service requests directly to Parks foresters,” she said. “It is the most efficient and effective way to address tree issues.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.