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Brookhaven Town considers code to give some trees landmark status

A purple beech tree near the former Brookhaven

A purple beech tree near the former Brookhaven Town Hall building on South Ocean Avenue in Patchogue on Oct 9. The tree is among those suggested for landmark status. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Brookhaven Town officials are mulling legislation that would preserve and protect town trees with historical value.

The Landmark Tree Code would be added to the existing town code and bar trees identified as "socially aesthetic" or having an environmental or historical value from being removed or knocked down.

“These are trees that have seen history and commemorate history and should be preserved for future generations,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, who is in favor of the proposed amendment code.

Huntington Town has a landmarking section for trees in its code.

In Brookhaven, landmarked trees would have to meet specific criteria such as having existed during key events, bringing value to the community and in some cases having a state or federal government historical designation, according to a draft of the code.

Town officials have begun targeting trees that might qualify for designation on town, county, state and private property.

Brookhaven would need permission to landmark trees not on town property. Such is the case with a purple beech at the former Brookhaven Town Hall building, now occupied by Northwell Health Physician Partners Cardiology, in Patchogue and privately owned.

“That tree has stood there for well over 100 years,” Romaine said.

The aspen tree groves at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai are being considered, said the supervisor, who believes they are the only trees of their kind on Long Island.

“That may be one of these areas that we declare a landmark,” Romaine said.

An evergreen tree outside the Terryville Union Hall could also be considered for landmarking status since it is rooted in a Brookhaven designated historical district.

Members of the now defunct Terryville Welfare Association planted the tree in 1932 in honor of the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday, town officials said.

Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, who represents Terryville, wasn’t available for comment.

Town Councilman Dan Panico had not yet reviewed the proposed code but said he was generally in support of preservation.

“I’d like to see as many of our trees as possible preserved,” he said.

Yet another possibility is the spruce tree at the northwest corner of Portion Road and Hawkins Avenue in Lake Ronkonkoma. The tree is already landmarked by the Lake Ronkonkoma Heritage Association.  It was planted after World War II in honor of Navy pilot David Lloyd Girardet, 24, of Lake Ronkonkoma, whose plane was shot down during the conflict, said Lake Ronkonkoma historian Ellyn Okvist.  

"I'm extremely proud," Okvist said when told of the town's proposal to landmark trees. "This is long overdue." 

One reason town officials are proposing to protect the trees is out of fear they may be torn down.

“Brookhaven Town has development pressures and we’re concerned that some of these trees may be destroyed in the process,” Romaine said. “We’re in a race against time to preserve some of these historic trees.”

He estimates a dozen trees would be landmarked in the first year, if the code is adopted, and that the figure could later grow to 100.

Each landmarked tree would be engraved with a plaque recognizing its historical status.

A public hearing on the code will be held on Nov. 20 at town hall.

Marked for preservation

Some of the trees town officials are eyeing are:

  • A purple beech at the former Brookhaven Town Hall building, 205 S. Ocean Ave. in Patchogue
  • Aspen groves at Cedar Beach, 244 Harbor Beach Rd. in Mount Sinai
  • An evergreen outside the Terryville Union Hall, 358 Terryville Rd. in Terryville
  • A spruce at the northwest corner of Portion Road and Hawkins Avenue in Lake Ronkonkoma

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