Brookhaven residents and officials angry over LIRR tree removal

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Brookhaven Town officials and residents have demanded that the Long Island Rail Road restore trees that were cut along train tracks in Brookhaven hamlet and East Patchogue.

LIRR officials said in a statement that the trees were removed earlier this year along the Montauk branch as a safety precaution.

But town officials and state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), said during a Tuesday news conference in Brookhaven hamlet, that they believed the LIRR cut down far more trees than necessary. Some felled trees were more than 20 feet from the tracks, Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said.

"Literally thousands of trees" were cut down along about five miles of track and the LIRR did not notify town or state officials, or residents, he said.

"They overreached," Romaine said of LIRR officials. "We understand clearing . . . for trains and commuters, but they cleared to the property line."

Romaine said residents called Town Hall to complain they had lost their privacy and noise buffers. "We began to get more and more calls," he said. "We looked and we said, 'They don't have to clear this.' "

Zeldin said in a statement that the LIRR should "find a way to strike a balance that satisfies all parties."

LIRR officials said in the statement that the railroad would consider the request to restore trees, adding that workers would survey the area "to review any potential safety issues."

Denise Tripodi, who lives along the tracks in Brookhaven hamlet, said the trees were removed without prior notification about two months ago. Workers wore orange vests with no indication that they were affiliated with the LIRR, she said.

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"We didn't purchase our home expecting to hear the traffic from Montauk Highway, expecting to hear the traffic from Sunrise Highway," she said.

She said the LIRR should erect fences and restore the trees.

The LIRR statement said trees are periodically trimmed or removed to "maintain proper visibility for engineers to safely operate trains, to reduce 'slip-slide' conditions from falling leaves that can cause trains to miss stops, and to keep communications and signal lines clear."

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