You would be excused for thinking that banning the growing of bamboo might be irrelevant on Long Island, since bamboo is not an indigenous species. But those who live near large growths of the invasive plant in Malverne would disagree.
“I have lived with this problem for some time,” said Peter Zullo, a former village attorney and one of the residents who spoke in favor of a proposed ban at a village meeting on May 1. “The bamboo grows so tall … when it snows, it snaps and damages fences.”
At the meeting, the village Board of Trustees unanimously approved a law that would ban “destructive” bamboo on any property in the village. The board approved the law, referred to as the “bamboo amendment,” after a public hearing at which a number of Malverne residents called for the ban.
Under the new law, residents are prohibited from planting, growing or maintaining bamboo outdoors. Indoor planting, however, is allowed. The Building Department will have the authority to issue summonses once a week if a property owner fails to get rid of the bamboo after an initial citation. Violators will face a $350 fine or up to 15 days in jail.
We’re looking for compliance,” Village Attorney Joseph Gentile said. “We’re looking for people to get rid of it.”
“Once it starts growing, it just spreads everywhere, and it’s hard to get rid of,” said Mayor Patti McDonald, who supported the ban.
Village officials said they were responding to complaints from residents who have had to deal with bamboo that has spread from neighbors’ property to their own, causing damage.
Opposition to the ban came only from an anonymous homeowner whose bamboo lot started the controversy, but who was not at the meeting and offered only a statement, which was read aloud: “The village wants us to beautify our property and when we do, by using a beautiful plant, this is what happens.”
Malverne is not the first Long Island community to ban bamboo. That distinction belongs to Ocean Beach, on Fire Island, which first outlawed the plant in 1981. Woods-burgh, Babylon and Smithtown did so in 2011, and the towns of Brookhaven and Hempstead and the City of Long Beach approved bans last year. This year, the Town of Huntington and the Village of Lindenhurst joined the anti-bamboo movement.
Penalties for growing or maintaining the plant vary, but Malverne may be the only municipality where violations carry potential jail time.