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City must do more to prevent danger from sidewalk trees

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The city has extended tree pruning from seven to 10 years, and now someone said it is being extended to 14 years. While this saves money, it endangers people walking under trees as well as property.

Too many young trees have branches that extend high over sidewalks so unwary people can get hit in the face as they walk. The city will probably trim your tree, but you have to call 311 or Community Board 7 at 718-359-2800 or CB 8 at 718-264-7895 and give them the location.

When you report a raised sidewalk due to growing tree roots, inspectors come and evaluate how high the sidewalk has been raised. If it is raised too high, they will fix it; if not, they will give it a grade and put it on a list. I am not talking about a crack, but a sidewalk raised up 3 or 4 inches.

Currently a large curbside tree, which was growing tilted on the north side of 75th Avenue just east of 190th Street, was bent over even more due to a storm. The sidewalk lifted up several inches in the air and broke into pieces.

Neighbors called 311 and a service number was given, but then the report came back that the “condition was inspected and it was determined that no work order was necessary. The condition will not be inspected again for at least 90 days.”

This is similar to a younger tree in front of my house that was half sheared off by a bigger tree. The city said the half was fine. Then a couple of months later during a heavy wind, it just broke off and fell to the ground. No one was hurt and no property damage was done, and it has been removed and replaced, but it should not have been permitted to fall.

It seems as if the city has told its inspectors to keep repair work to a minimum to save money or make people wait so long that they will pay for the repairs themselves. This is no way to keep people and properties safe. The city is planting 1 million trees, but does not provide the services necessary to maintain them.

On 182nd Street just north of 73rd Avenue are two lots with trees growing in them. The sidewalks are raised and broken due to tree roots. This is the site of the Brinkerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows. It seems that due to bureaucratic bungling the city neglected to recognize that it was a colonial cemetery and taxed it, then sold it in the 1950s for unpaid taxes.

For decades civic leaders, legislators and preservationists have prevented the owner from building on the property, but they did not follow through and have the city or some group acquire it, clean it up and make it a cemetery again.

Now a new owner wants the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to declare it is not a historic site and give him the right to build houses there, since the area is zoned R2A.

The LPC held a public hearing a week ago with more than 40 members of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association, community leaders and preservationists speaking in support of giving the property landmark status. Although a similar hearing was held in 2000, the LPC never voted on the issue.

The civic says it now has relatives of the original colonists who want the location preserved as a historic cemetery.

Will the pressure this time be enough to preserve the location? Will our legislators or preservation groups find the money to purchase the land and preserve it, or will inertia settle over this wooded area again and will a little bit of our history be lost to a developer?

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