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Queens Chronicle

If a tree falls in Howard Beach ...

City has been cutting down some Sandy-damaged trees in community

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Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 5:18 am, Wed Dec 24, 2014.

Trees are coming down in Howard Beach, but it’s residents who are making a sound.

A number of trees affected by Hurricane Sandy last year have been cut down over the last few months in Howard Beach and homeowners are concerned they will now be left without the shady canopy they’ve grown used to.

At least half a dozen trees in Old Howard Beach were cut down recently and residents want to know why.

Two trees near the corner of 157th Avenue and 96th Street were chopped down, as was one on 158th Avenue near 96th Street. A tree on 97th Street has a sign attached to it saying it will be pruned this weekend.

A number of trees have also been cut down in Broad Channel and on the Rockaway Peninsula.

After Hurricane Sandy, the city Parks Department flushed out all of the planters in neighborhoods where the storm surge hit and later surveyed all trees in those communities, including Howard Beach. The agency inspected approximately 48,000 trees, and categorized them by leaf coverage. Parks says between 2,000 and 3,000 trees have been or are being removed and another 4,500 that had low leaf coverage this year will be monitored, as will be the soil around the trees and tested for levels of salt and other elements that may have gotten into the soil as a result of the storm.

“We will gain a fuller picture of the tree and plant mortality caused by Hurricane Sandy in the spring, when we can observe their behavior throughout the growing season,” the department said in a statement. “In the interim, we have been and will continue to remediate soil, as necessary, with compost and gypsum — both mitigate salt damage — to encourage the return of healthy biological functioning.”

Many of the London planes showed little to no leaf growth this summer, but some bloomed as late as July. Most of the other types of trees in the neighborhood, including younger ones, survived and thrived this summer. Shrubbery, especially in areas that were hit with higher flood water, turned brown and died.

At a meeting of Community Board 10 last Thursday, a Howard Beach resident inquired about the tree situation. CB 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton told the resident that the trees being torn down are mainly London planes, which were damaged by saltwater during the storm.

Earlier in the year, a number of residents in Howard Beach and the Rockaways expressed concern about trees left damaged or leaning after Sandy. At least one of those trees, on 99th Street between 160th and 161st avenues, has been cut down. At the time, the city said it would not chop down any tree unless it was found to be dead and would give the trees several months to show signs of life.

Braton said the city informed the board that the London planes would be replaced by oak trees, which are more resistant to saltwater.

The Parks Department also encourages residents to water trees frequently to lessen the effects the saltwater might have had, even so long after the storm, and to call 311 if they wish to have a tree in front of their home inspected.

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