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Thursday, December 18, 2014
Tree removal sparks residents’ ire
City officials: Sandy-damaged trees being taken down for safety
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Courtesy Emma Lawe/Facebook
Trees were taken down on the 300 block of East Beech Street in mid-June.

At last week’s City Council meeting, officials addressed residents’ concerns about the citywide removal of damaged and dead trees over the past two months.

City workers began removing the trees in May. During Hurricane Sandy, many trees were inundated with, and damaged by, saltwater, Department of Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba told residents at the July 1 council meeting.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing the city with funding to remove all of the trees that are found to be dead or substantially damaged. Some residents, however, are irate, claiming that workers have taken down too many trees, questioning whether all of them are really damaged and saying that the work is being done without fair warning.

At a meeting in February, the City Council voted unanimously to hire the Brooklyn-based Dragonetti Brothers Nursery and Landscaping to remove the trees. The company was to be paid $638,000 to cut down 1,000 trees, according to the meeting proceedings.

City officials explained why and how it would remove the trees at the meeting. City Manager Jack Schnirman said that the arborists who are assessing the trees do a 200-point inspection, and that the percentage of damage is estimated for each tree, much like the way home damage was assessed after Sandy. Schnirman added that the city was attempting to preserve existing trees whenever possible.

LaCarrubba said that the city waited a full season after Sandy to see if the trees would recover. But halfway through the inspections, he said, arborists had determined that 63 percent of the trees they had assessed should be removed. As of July 1, between 2,300 and 2,400 trees had been inspected, and 1,100 had been slated for removal.

LaCarrubba said that there are as many as four people working on the project each day, two or three arborists and one landscape artist. The LiRo Group, the engineering firm that oversaw the reconstruction of the boardwalk, is coordinating the tree inspection. LiRo is paid $14 per tree, according to the Feb. 4 council proceedings.

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