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Queens Chronicle

Problematic tree has to go, Avella says

Senator joins Beechhurst residents dealing with extremely invasive roots

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Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2018 10:30 am

In his many years as an elected official, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) hasn’t seen another arbor-related situation like the invasive roots from a tree on 13th Avenue just feet west of 162nd Street in Beechhurst.

“We’ve always come across situations where city tree roots, obviously, uplift the sidewalk and then go on to the private property, which the city refuses to address,” the senator said during a press conference at the site Monday. “In this case though, the roots of this tree have literally taken over the property of these two houses.”

The tree roots have caused problems for the yards of adjacent homes at 12-44 162 St. and 160-37 13 Ave. And a property across the street has started to experience its own problems from the roots.

They’re visible on much of the ground around the homes — including a lawn and a garden, which has a fountain that’s off-balance because of the roots.

Those are far from the only problems.

“Our sewer was crushed from the tree roots,” Virginia Centrillo, who lives in the 13th Avenue home, said at Avella’s press conference in reference to her home’s private sewer system.

She said she’s already spent tens of thousands of dollars getting her sewer system fixed, and she expects it to cost her as much as $60,000.

Carlo Colagiacomo, who lives in the 162nd Street house, said he wishes he knew the tree roots would be a problem when he bought the property.

“For 25 years, I’ve been cutting roots,” he said. “I cut them up and they just come back.”

If you ask Avella, there’s a simple solution to the problems they’ve faced.

“This tree has got to come down,” he said. “There’s no other way to do this. It is literally taking over the neighborhood.”

Avella and the homeowners have reached out to the Parks Department, but the agency doesn’t want to cut down the tree.

“Parks last inspected this tree, a 33” diameter quaking aspen on March 2, 2018,” an agency spokesperson told the Chronicle in an email. “The tree was found to be in good condition and does not require removal. We do not remove healthy trees.”

The agency said the tree likely did not cause the sewer damage, though Centrillo insists it did. The Parks Department also suggested that the homeowners file a claim with the City Comptroller’s Office.

Avella has been highly critical of the Parks Department and his judgment has differed from the agency’s many times.

The folks victimized by the situation in Beechhurst, he pointed out at the press conference, have done their share to fill government coffers.

“They’re paying some of the highest property taxes in the country,” Avella explained. “And all they want is some proper city service.”

The Parks Department tends to not be eager to destroy public trees, and private citizens who damage them are hit with expensive fines if caught.

“When I worked for [former Mayor Ed] Koch, Henry Stern was the Parks Commissioner,” the senator explained. “He was the one who came up with, ‘We don’t touch a live tree.’ And I can understand the logic behind that. But as important as trees are, people are more important.”

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