Floral Park residents are angry over the destruction of three trees on Hillside Avenue that were not claimed by Hurricane Irene, but rather decapitated by vandals. A civic group and area lawmaker are offering cash for information leading to an arrest.
About 50 community members along with City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) stood near the oak tree stumps, which were all that remained, during a press conference last Thursday to voice their outrage. The three plantings are worth $11,000 according to the lawmaker.
“The turnout today proves how important these trees are to us as a community, our quality of life,” Weprin said. “The way this community comes together is a big part of the reason we love living here.”
Weprin noted that the trees were deliberately taken down and that there was sawdust surrounding the stumps. He and the Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces are offering a $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible.
“This is a busy street, Hillside Avenue,” Weprin said. “We are hoping that someone may have passed by, not thinking anything was wrong, that someone was doing something having to do with the storm, and now that they hear about this maybe they’ll say it was a tall guy or a short guy.”
The incident took place on Aug. 29, the same day Irene hit the city, and the trees were cut down in front of stores located at 256-09 and 256-15 Hillside Ave. Merchants near the locations said they were appalled by the arborcide and hope the culprit is brought to justice.
Ezra Castro, the owner of AT&T Mobileistic at 256-07 Hillside Ave. said he noticed the trees were gone when he came to work on Monday morning, but did not know who could be responsible for the crime.
“They’re a bunch of animals,” Castro said. “The city should replace the trees as soon as possible.”
Mahendra Shah, the owner of the Mubai Express restaurant at 256-05 Hillside Ave., shook his head as he looked at the severed trees. “It’s a very bad thing,” he said.
Fred Kress, president of the QCPGS, said it was “sad” that someone would take advantage of the storm to try to cover up the intentional destruction of city property and called the vandals “animals” and “scum.” The downed trees were blocking a sidewalk and parking space and required removal by the city which is already overburdened by the Irene cleanup, Kress added.
“Arborcide is a serious criminal offense and an assault on our communities,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in a prepared statement. “The deliberate destruction of three trees is a blow to the quality of life and environmental health of the Floral Park community.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 577-TIPS (8477).The public can also submit tips by logging onto nypd crimestoppers.com, or by texting 274637 (CRIMES), then entering TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential.