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Village officials may fell trees whose roots have damaged curbs, sidewalks 

Officials in Port Washington North are considering cutting

Officials in Port Washington North are considering cutting down trees that have encroached on sidewalks, such as this one on Soundview Drive, and lifted curbs. Credit: Barry Sloan

Officials in Port Washington North are considering cutting down trees that have encroached on sidewalks and lifted curbs to make way for a road repaving project and remove a safety hazard for pedestrians.

“I don’t want to cut a single tree down in this village,” Mayor Bob Weitzner told the village board last week. But “it is at the point … where we as a board have got to address the problem, and it is not going to be an easy decision to make.”

Removing mature trees can be a highly controversial move on Long Island, where residents have sued and expressed outrage over trees that were cut down for road projects.

For Port Washington North, the infrastructure damage created by growing tree roots became particularly problematic this year, as the village plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to repave several residential streets in the summer.

“I don’t know how we put new curbs in if there are existing roots … lifting the road,” Weitzner said at the recent board meeting and later in a follow-up interview. “The curbs are in horrible shape because the very, very mature trees, in some cases, have completely busted the curb out onto the street [and] onto the grass.”

As the village prepares to repave parts of Soundview, Steamboat and Driftwood drives, officials said they want to ensure the newly paved roads last.

“It would justify going curb-to-curb 30 feet across and putting in new roads that are gonna last 10 years,” Weitzner said. “There’s no guarantees these things are gonna last two years with the trees in the way they are right now.”

It is unclear how many oaks and sycamores would be cleared for the repaving project, which is estimated to cost between $200,000 and $300,000.

Weitzner said he counted about half a dozen trees that are particularly problematic and estimated they are about 40 years old.

Village officials also said they want to reestablish the width of the sidewalk to be at least 4 feet wide, which is required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and to keep the paths in good condition for residents to take a stroll or ride a bike.

The problem, which is prevalent in urban and suburban neighborhoods across the country, needs to be examined on a “tree-by-tree basis,” said Greg McPherson, a retired U.S. Forest Service research forester who co-authored a review of the issue in 2003.

“You see examples of curbs that are moved out to allow a large, old tree to survive because it may be a landmark in the community,” McPherson said Wednesday in a phone interview. “The cost-effectiveness calculation varies in each case. It’s up to the values of the community in terms of historic legacy and other reasons for protecting and preserving the trees.”

Village officials are waiting for an engineering analysis and said they welcome public input on the matter. The next village meeting is at 7:30 p.m. March 25 at Village Hall.

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