A tense debate over tree protection laws brewing in the village of East Hills briefly spilled over into Mineola last week when a self-proclaimed tree activist from East Hills pleaded with Mineola Village board members to save a tree he said is 125 years old and in danger of being demolished.
"The clock is ticking," said Richard Brummel, who has developed his own website filled with photos of trees he deems endangered. "This tree has no protection."
Brummel pleaded with village board members at a board meeting last month to enact more stringent tree protection laws.
But Mineola, according to village clerk Joseph Scalero, does not regulate trees on private property. The tree, which Brummel said is a red oak, sits behind a house on Roslyn Road that he says on his website "appears ready for demolition."
Village officials say the house is in foreclosure and boarded up, but add they have no knowledge that either the house or tree is going to be demolished and no permits have been filed to that effect.
At last week's board meeting, the mayor and trustees said Mineola's tree rules would remain firm.
"I think you're under the wrong impression that Mineola is slashing and burning these trees down," Mayor Scott Strauss told Brummel during a public hearing. "That's not the case. We have a very aggressive tree planting program and we don't take down trees because we feel like it."
The village disputed Brummel's claim that the tree is 125 years old. Trustee Paul Pereira said he examined an aerial photograph of the village taken in 1926 and the tree was nowhere to be found.
The lengthy back-and-forth between Brummel and board members -- the mayor and each trustee weighed in -- prompted a comment from the former mayor, state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola).
"This isn't the first time we've had people coming to our village from outside to impress upon us that which we are doing wrong and to try to impose on us their own world view," he said.
Martins told the board, "Listen to your residents, listen to the homeowners who are here, listen to the people who have an investment and people who have an interest in the best interest of their own village."