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Court: Tree removal can resume on South Oyster Bay Road

A state Supreme Court justice lifted a temporary restraining order Thursday, allowing Nassau County to resume cutting down trees along South Oyster Bay Road.

Judge R. Bruce Cozzens Jr. rejected arguments by the grassroots group Operation STOMP that the county's plan to remove about 200 trees as part of road and sidewalk repairs necessitated the state environmental review process. The review was unnecessary because the law exempts highway repaving projects when no lanes are added, Cozzens wrote.

Residents and elected officials who challenged the project reiterated their call for the county to revisit the strategy.

Nassau County Department of Public Works spokesman Mike Martino said in a statement that the county had acted to address dangerous conditions such as gaps and elevated sidewalk slabs, and to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The sidewalks along South Oyster Road have been compromised by the trees," Martino said. "There have been multiple resident complaints regarding the condition of the sidewalks. The county is . . . acting in compliance with the law."

The county plans to plant new trees after the project's completion.

Opponents had complained about the breadth of the cutting program along a 4-mile stretch of road from Syosset to Hicksville and about the lack of notice and community input.

On Oct. 10, Supreme Court Justice Antonio Brandveen issued a temporary restraining order that stopped contractors from taking out more trees. Brandveen later recused himself.

Tanya Lukasik, a public health researcher from Hicksville who led the effort to save the trees, found Thursday's ruling "sadly disheartening."

Lukasik, 33, said STOMP was considering an appeal, but was concerned about legal costs and the risk that losing could worsen matters. "They might then use this as a case to further do work on other county roads and set this as a precedent," she said. Lukasik had wanted the county to repair the sidewalks using alternatives that would leave the trees.

State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), who had asked county officials to involve the community, said he had heard from constituents that outreach had begun. "I just would want the county to continue to communicate and find out what they [county officials] could do," Hannon said.

"Do they have to do this all at once or could they make this a partial type of improvement?"

Kathy Wilson, spokeswoman for Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), said the county should slow down the project and "get the community involved and talk to the people and to limit the amount of trees they have to take down."

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