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State provides seed money for new trees throughout Long Beach

Newly planted trees on East Chester Street in

Newly planted trees on East Chester Street in Long Beach on Thursday, July 16, 2015. T Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Long Beach officials have secured the final piece of their tree funding puzzle.

The city has received $1.3 million in state Community Development Block Grants to backfill the city's budget gap in removing and replacing 2,400 damaged or dying trees inundated in 2012 by superstorm Sandy.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo allocated the additional funds earlier this month. The Long Beach City Council voted to approve the funding at its July 7 meeting.

"Our beach community needs these trees to absorb and filter storm water," City Councilman Scott J. Mandel said in a statement. "These healthy trees will also help to provide shade, produce oxygen, and moderate the temperature."

City officials said in March that the public works budget was $500,000 short in covering the $1.5 million tree replanting process in a funding dispute with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

They had raised about $1 million to cover the expense of the project using separate city funds, a $50,000 state grant secured by 4th District Legis. Denise Ford and a $75,000 donation from actor and Long Beach native Billy Crystal.

The project includes planting 2,700 new trees, 300 more than were present before Sandy. The city is not replacing trees on private property.

FEMA officials have said the agency previously allocated $400,000 for tree removal. City officials said FEMA did not cover the total $2.5 million expense of stump removal from city public property and medians, and planting new trees.

Public works department estimates said removing the trees would cost about $1.2 million and planting new ones another $1.3 million.

The city has contracted with the Syosset-based LiRo Group to replant the trees. Workers have planted about 1,900 since last spring. The remainder are to be planted when temperatures cool in the fall.

Crystal and Sen. Chuck Schumer stumped in Long Beach last year for FEMA to cover the $2.5 million funding so Long Beach would not have to raid its budget. FEMA officials have argued that the Department of Housing and Urban Development should cover the funding, but Schumer was unable to work out a resolution.

The city was already earmarked for $25 million in Community Development Block Grant disaster relief funds after Sandy for infrastructure repairs. Then, state officials provided the additional funding this month.

Representatives from Schumer's and Cuomo's offices could not be reached for comment.

"This is a tremendous victory for Long Beach taxpayers," City Councilman Anthony Eramo said in a written statement. "Gov. Cuomo has come through, and we sincerely thank him along with Sen. Schumer and Billy Crystal for their efforts. We could not afford to pay for these trees on our own."

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