Tree maintenance at root of problem


| aaltman@queenscourier.com |

Photo courtesy of Bob Friedrich
Photo courtesy of Bob Friedrich

Lifted tree roots in Glen Oaks Village pose a potential hazard to the co-op’s residents.

If a tree falls in Glen Oaks Village, and no one assumes responsibility for clearing it, does it cause damage?

Homeowners in the eastern Queens co-op are irritated over what they feel is a lack of effort by the city to clear dangerous tree roots and repair damaged sidewalks.

Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village, the largest garden apartment co-op in New York, demands the city take action.

New legislation, initiated by Friedrich and reinforced by Senator Tony Avella, would modify the current law that forbids residents from pruning street trees — ones located between the sidewalk and the road — holding the city responsible for damage done within co-ops by falling branches.

According to Friedrich, Hurricane Irene incurred over $59,000 in damages to Glen Oaks Village, ripping out roughly 100 trees and flooding several residents’ basements.

Since the storm, Friedrich said he has asked the city to remove the visible stumps and turned-up roots – something they promised to do within 90 days of the hurricane, according to Friedrich. He says the city has yet to take action.

“I refer to this area as ‘Queens, the forgotten borough,’” said Friedrich. “If you drive through Manhattan, you see all the resources they have. Bike lanes and trees. We can’t even get our curbs repaired. The city is inattentive to the needs of people in Queens.”

According to Friedrich, the city is accountable for repairing sidewalks damaged by trees during storms when it occurs in front of a single-family home. Friedrich feels this is an “issue of fairness and equality,” as according to him, residents of co-ops are responsible for paying higher taxes.

“The city has been doing an abysmal job and we’re really fed up,” said Friedrich. “We need them to step up to the plate.”

Friedrich added that many of Glen Oaks Village’s residents are senior citizens, vulnerable to falls and at risk of tripping over lifted tree roots.

According to a representative from the Department of Parks and Recreation, the city removes hanging limbs, dead trees and tree debris located on public property, including public sidewalks.

While property owners are responsible for sidewalk maintenance, owner-occupied, one-, two-, and three-family homes with sidewalks affected by the roots of curbside trees are eligible for free repair under the Parks Department’s Trees and Sidewalks program.

Since the program began in 2005, more than $18 million has been allocated to fixing over 9,200 trees and sidewalks throughout the city, including nearly $9 million to repairing damages in Queens.