‘The side of my house is a jungle’: Whitestone resident says invasive street trees are destroying his home

Photos courtesy of Carlo Colagiacomo

Since 2001, Carlo Colagiacomo has been dealing with two massive trees that are destroying his property on 162nd Street in the Beechhurst section of Whitestone.

“They’ve taken over my whole property,” Colagiacomo told QNS. “They were planted here years ago and since then, I’ve been fighting off the roots from growing new trees on my property.”

The trees, known as quaking aspens, are sprouting hundreds of young trees throughout Colagiacomo’s property. Known for their shared root system, these two trees in particular have roots sprouting not just in Colagiacomo’s property, but in his neighbor’s property as well.

“The roots grew into my neighbor’s drain line and had to spend $15,000 to replace it,” Colagiacomo said. “The roots are growing in the cracks of my driveway, my steps, the flower box, and it’s even in the catch basin and lifting up the concrete. As long as the trees are alive, the roots are dominating the property.”

The tree branches, Colagiacomo said, has dented his roof and gutters, fallen on his daughter’s car — breaking her windshield — and pulled down a power line once before. Colagiacomo’s son, Carlo, knows that falling branches isn’t a unique concern, however the roots are the real problem with these trees.

“We’ve had to have the lawn dug up; it’s like a forest,”  the junior Carlo said. “The roots have made their way into the sewer system and are growing through the pipe. Our neighbor, who recently had to replace her pipes due to the damage the roots caused, already has new roots growing near the pipes.”

Colagiacomo has contacted the Parks Department and Claire Shulman when she served as Queens borough president many years ago. In past years, he also made a request for remedies through the Trees & Sidewalks program.

According to the Parks Department, the Trees & Sidewalks program sends Forestry experts to locations at the request of the homeowners. The properties are then given a rating based on the severity of damage and risk to public safety.

The trees were last inspected by the Parks Department on March 2 of this year. At that time, the Parks Department told QNS, it was determined that the trees would not be removed because they were healthy, and the Parks Department does not remove healthy trees.

Despite the amount of damage that the tree roots have caused over the years, Colagiacomo said that the city has done nothing to get rid of these trees.

“It’s destroying my property, my neighbor’s property and city property,” Colagiacomo said. “The Parks Department has been here many times. I even offered to plant new trees in their place. I don’t see how the city can’t see how this is invasive.”

One local lawmaker has taken notice of Colagiacomo’s complaints. After seeing the damage caused by the roots, state Senator Tony Avella went out to Colagiacomo’s home on July 6 to call on the city to remove the trees.

“When I first came to this property a month ago, I immediately knew this was the worst case of tree roots invading private property that I had ever seen,” Avella said. “It really is the tree that took over the neighborhood. It is bad enough that the trees are invading his property but they are even coming out of the catch basin and the homeowner’s downspout. This is an utter failure to provide basic city services to those paying some of the highest property taxes in the country.”

On Avella’s advice, Colagiacomo is letting the trees grow out to show how much damage the roots are doing to his property.

“The side of my house is a jungle,” Colagiacomo said. “The last time I cut the roots back was this past spring, and since then my property has four to six foot trees growing from the roots. I’d like to thank Senator Avella because he’s really trying to help. It seems like nobody cares.”

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