Concerns raised by residents at an area civic meeting regarding overgrown tree roots uplifting sidewalks and clogging pipes and sewers prompted Community Board 13 to unanimously pass a resolution at its Monday meeting calling on the city to compensate homeowners for repairs.
At a joint meeting between CB 13 and the Federated Blocks of Laurelton on May 12, several people complained about the issue. In fact, three individuals said that collectively they had spent $40,000 to fix sewer lines that were damaged by trees, according to CB 13’s District Manager Larry McClean.
The Department of Environmental Protection has indicated that property owners are responsible for the trees planted in front of their homes by the Parks Department. However, the Department of Transportation has acknowledged that when tree roots upend sidewalks, the agency and the property owner are jointly responsible, McClean said.
“If they get into your water and sewer lines what the Parks Department is saying is that’s an act of God,” McClean told attendees. “And what this resolution is trying to say is that it is not an act of providence. God did not plant those trees. God has planted a lot of trees all over, but he did not plant trees in the sidewalk in front of the houses in Queens — that was the Department of Transportation and the Parks Department.”
The DEP may be offering insurance to homeowners to cover tree-related damage costs sometime in fiscal year 2013, but until then CB 13 has decided to take the lead by passing a resolution, and it hopes other community boards will do the same.
CB 13 is proposing that the city do one of the following: compensate a percentage of the cost to property owners who have been impacted during the last five years; give property owners a tax credit of one-half as compensation for the cost incurred in the last five years including property liens; or credit the property one-half of any cost of future water and sewer bills up to one-half of the amount spent against any liens.
“At the district service cabinet meeting Queens Borough DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy said on tape that the city and DOT were responsible for the cost of damage to those particular sidewalk portions that were damaged by trees,” McClean said.