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Appellate Court allows Nassau County to resume tree removal on South Oyster Bay Road

Nassau County neared completion of its controversial plan to cut down 200 trees along South Oyster Bay Road last week, after the latest legal challenge failed.

A local group that formed six weeks ago to stop the tree removal, Save Trees Over More Pavement, or STOMP, vowed to continue its fight on other roads, one of its organizers said.

Contractors moved quickly to resume work once a state Appellate Court in Brooklyn lifted a restraining order on Wednesday.

Before the court action, Nassau Department of Public Works spokesman Mike Martino said "more than 100" trees had been felled. On Thursday, he said about 200 trees -- oaks and sycamores -- had been cut down. On Friday, contractors were cutting down the few remaining trees on a four-mile stretch of road from Syosset to Hicksville.

"The courts . . . ruled that Nassau County acted properly, and complied with environmental regulations when undertaking the project," Martino said in a statement.

The county has said the trees had to be cut because their roots had lifted the sidewalks, creating a safety hazard. Martino said the county had to act because it had been put on notice -- via resident complaints -- that the sidewalks were out of compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Residents, who complained they were not notified in advance about the tree cutting, organized a legal challenge that argued the county failed to get an environmental review.

They were granted a temporary restraining order on Oct. 10, but a different judge ruled the review was unnecessary because it was a road project that was exempt.

Two residents, who were not part of the original case, appealed, and on Nov. 5, Appellate Judge William Mastro in Brooklyn issued another temporary restraining order. Then, last week the court dismissed the case because the two plaintiffs were "not aggrieved."

Tanya Lukasik, a public health researcher from Hicksville who led the effort to save the trees, said in an email Friday that STOMP would fight for alternatives to removing trees from other county roads.

"There is no rational reason one can conjure not to place a thoughtful emphasis on the preservation of the trees that line all County roadways, true historical public assets, rather than hastily rush to destroy what took over 60 years to grow and flourish," she said.

Officials said they plan to replace the trees with new ones.

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