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Halt called to South Oyster Bay Road tree removal

A state judge Friday ordered Nassau County to stop cutting down trees along South Oyster Bay Road, granting a temporary restraining order to a group of residents angered at the county's plan to remove about 200 trees.

State Supreme Court Judge Antonio Brandveen scheduled a hearing next Thursday for the county to address complaints from a group called Operation STOMP, whose members said they were not forewarned of the plan to remove trees along a 4-mile stretch from Syosset to Hicksville.

Contractors were cutting down trees this week, a move a county spokesman said was a necessary component of an $8 million road and sidewalk repair project designed to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The plaintiff's attorney argued in court filings that the county failed to follow state environmental laws.

"It's disheartening and upsetting that . . . despite all the public opposition, the pleas, the constant calls . . . that we had to get to this level to intervene to have this work stopped," said Tanya Lukasik of Hicksville, one of the plaintiffs who spearheaded the opposition. Lukasik, a researcher specializing in public health, said about 60 trees have been removed.

"So many people are upset and devastated by the level of destruction that's occurred over the last four or five days," she said.

Nassau County spokeswoman Katie Grilli-Robles did not respond to questions about the court action, but said in an email, "Sidewalks along the roadway are damaged by tree roots and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. The County will be planting new trees along the roadway and offering homeowners larger trees for the backyards."

State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said County Executive Edward Mangano had not responded to his questions about the project and should address residents' complaints. "Anything in terms of involving the community would be a positive step," Hannon said.

A spokeswoman for state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) said he had asked the county to delay and re-evaluate the project but had not heard back.

On Thursday, Michael Martino, spokesman for the Nassau County Department of Public Works, said in an email that county officials did not plan to stop the project, which was expected to continue until the middle of next year.

He said the county had been "put on notice" that it needed to make changes to comply with the ADA, but he did not respond to queries about who had done the noticing or which sections of the act were at issue.

Martino also did not respond to a question about what notification, if any, residents had received about the tree removals.

Lukasik said she knew nothing about the program until the work was in progress. "If you're going to change the aesthetics in such a drastic way, you need to inform the public," she said.

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