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A stately, 100-year-old Black Locust tree has sparked a war between two neighbors in Bellerose, with one man claiming the tree’s roots damaged his property and one woman worried that clearing the roots would cause the massive tree to topple over.
The neighbors both agree the spat began with a conversation across their shared backyard fence this summer. During the conversation, Mahendra Shah, who lives on 250th Street, asked Carolina Florica, who lives on 249th Street, where the tree is located, if she would remove some of the large, shallow tree roots growing onto his property.
After that point, however, they seem to agree on almost nothing.
“I just want her to take care of it, that’s all,” Shah said.
Shah said he wants the tree roots gone because he believes they caused a large crack in the wall of his stand-alone, single-car garage and in the stones of his back patio.
He also said he is considering building a shed in the backyard, but cannot move forward with the plan unless the roots are scaled back.
But Florica disputes Shah’s allegation that the tree is the cause of the garage’s crack and says she should not be responsible for cutting the tree roots, saying the tree was there long before she or her neighbor were.
“It’s almost not my tree,” she said. “It’s in my backyard, but it’s nature’s tree.”
Florica called a New York-certified home inspector with Garber Home Inspections and an urban ecologist with Worldwide Ecology, Dr. Steven D. Garber, to inspect the tree and Shah’s garage this summer. According to an affidavit Garber gave to Florica’s attorney, the garage’s damage was not due to the tree but rather to freezing and thawing water from the roof, which Garber said does not have a gutter and is poorly maintained.
In addition, the affidavit warns cutting away portions of the tree’s root system could be dangerous, making it more susceptible to health issues “that could weaken the tree, cause death of parts of the tree and make it more likely to lose branches [or] fall in a storm.”
“I am scared to touch this tree that is so huge,” Florica said, saying she is terrified if Shah takes the matter into his own hands, the tree — 36 inches in diameter and more than 50 feet tall — will come crashing down on her house or her neighbors’ houses.
As of right now, the neighbors remain in a standoff, with Shah still demanding Florica pay to remove the roots or cut the tree down entirely and Florica saying she is prepared to take him to court over the matter.
Although Shah said he has the right to cut away the roots himself, he said he is not sure what his next step will be.
The possibility that cutting away the roots could weaken the tree did not seem to concern him, however. When asked if he was worried about the tree falling down, he responded, “Wouldn’t that be her problem? It’s her tree.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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