Towering city trees lining a street in Flushing have residents concerned for their safety.
Homeowners living along 167th Street between Pidgeon Meadow Road and Underhill Avenue are feeling frustrated with the city, who they say has been unresponsive to years of tree-related worries.
Residents who spoke on site at a press conference on April 6 noted that many of the trees on the block slant toward their homes, are in need of pruning, or are in poor condition overall.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said homeowner Penelope Angelopolous. “If one of these trees happened to fall over, it’ll hit our homes … Right now, this small wind that we have today is actually bending the trees.”
Homeowners on the block claimed they have reached out to the Parks Department and 311 in recent years, but were told the trees were still alive and nothing could be done.
“You’re afraid to invite people over, your grandchildren over,” said Mary Holzer, a 47-year Flushing resident. “Every day I’m out here cleaning up fallen branches.”
Next-door neighbor Isabella Mango attributed the overgrown tree hovering over her home as the cause of a squirrel infestation in her attic. The sidewalk in front of her house has also been fixed twice in recent years due to tree roots; it is breaking up again, she noted.
“It’s a band-aid fix. It’s not solving the real problem,” she said.
State Senator Tony Avella, who organized the press conference, noted that the residential block is located two blocks away from Kissena Park, where, in August 2013, a 30-year-old expectant mother was struck and killed by a fallen tree while sitting on a bench.
“No wind, no rain, or anything, and the tree fell over,” Avella said. “During Hurricane Sandy, just a block away, a tree came down and killed a young man who was sleeping in his own bedroom.”
The lawmaker has spoken openly against the NYC Parks Department’s tree policies in the past. He was 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.
Earlier this year, Avella surveyed homeowners in his district about the city’s tree removal and pruning services. Of the 1,250 homeowners who responded to the survey, two-thirds said they felt the tree in front of their home was unsafe.
“That’s an indictment against the city of New York for not doing a proper job,” he said.
Avella mentioned he recently introduced state legislation that seeks to establish a task force to evaluate the Parks Department’s policies on tree maintenance. The bill is currently in committee.
Parks Department spokesperson Meghan Lalor said routine pruning of street trees occurs within a section of each community board annually, depending on available funding.
“NYC Parks routinely prunes street trees to maintain public safety, address immediate conflicts with infrastructure, and enhance tree health and longevity,” Lalor said.
The spokesperson also noted that homeowners with time-sensitive issues may pursue maintenance of a street tree themselves, though this work requires a tree work permit, which can be acquired by contacting the NYC Parks Queens Borough Forestry division or through the department’s website.