A Bayside-based lawmaker continues to voice his concern with the condition of the city’s trees — and with the city agency in charge of their care.
Earlier this year, state Senator Tony Avella conducted a constituent survey which asked residents for their thoughts on the city’s tree removal and pruning services. The lawmaker represents the approximately 300,000 residents in District 11, which covers areas including Bayside, College Point, Flushing and Whitestone.
A total of 1,250 homeowners responded to the survey, Avella noted when he announced his findings in February. Two-thirds of survey respondents said they felt unsafe about the condition of the tree in front of their home, according to Avella. Approximately three-quarters of respondents indicated that their tree is either overgrown, dangerous or needs removal.
Upon receiving the survey responses, Avella forwarded the locations with trees causing residents concern to the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). In the following weeks, the lawmaker said the city agency responded with a list of 65 of the locations submitted, along with instructions that the homeowners call 311.
Avella called the response “disgraceful and a clear dereliction of duty” and penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York.
“I’m almost at a loss for words at how disgraceful this response was,” Avella said in a statement. “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 DPR commissioner will be personally responsible.”
Parks Department spokesperson Meghan Lalor said calling 311 “routes tree service requests directly to Parks foresters” and is “the most efficient and effective way to address tree issues.”
The 65 addresses in question were the first set the city agency received. The department will continue to respond to the inquiries.
Avella’s remarks are one in a series of complaints waged against the city department in recent years. Avella was openly critical of the city’s “Tree and Sidewalk Repair Program,” announced in the summer of 2017, which he said does not go far enough to provide all homeowners relief.
The lawmaker also spoke out about the city’s tree policy in August 2013, when a 30-year-old expectant mother was struck and killed by a fallen tree while sitting on a bench in Kissena Park.