Seaford residents are outraged that a sidewalk repair project along a mile-and-a-half stretch of Seamans Neck Road includes cutting down 176 large old oak trees that have shaded both sides of the street for years.
"It'll look like a war zone," said Joan Gilgannon, who has lived near the road for almost 13 years. "Everybody loves the way it is."
But the work is necessary to keep the roadway safe for pedestrians, said Michael Martino, spokesman for the Nassau County Department of Public Works, which started the project on July 28. New trees will be planted after the project is complete, he said.
The sidewalk on both sides of the road had been "damaged beyond repair due to the roots of the existing trees" pushing the concrete up or causing it to break apart, Martino said.
"It is in unsafe condition and it needs to be rectified," he said. "The potential danger to pedestrians was impossible to ignore. Nassau County had to act."
The project extends from Hunt Road in Seaford north to Hicksville Road in Bethpage.
In order to replace the sidewalk, the trees causing the problems have to be removed, Martino said.
Crews last week worked out of the bucket of a cherry picker to cut the tall trees. A chipper truck ground them into mulch. Only a few of the trees had been cut down as of late last week.
The project will continue for four to six weeks, Martino said. New trees will be planted in September or October, he said, but officials had not determined what varieties will be used.
Several residents have complained that removing the trees is unnecessary and will ruin the look and feel of the residential neighborhoods along Seamans Neck Road.
Gilgannon said the road is not "well traveled."
"Very few people walk on those sidewalks," she said, adding that bicyclists like the route "because it's shady and cool."
Doris Votke, 62, of Massapequa, said she drives along Seamans Neck Road frequently and would hate to see the large trees disappear. She stood along the road near Miller Place for more than an hour last week, holding a sign that read "Stop Killing Our Trees" in brightly colored letters.
"I got mostly waves, some thumbs up, and one finger," she said.
Votke said that regardless of the sidewalk condition, people in the area enjoy walking along Seamans Neck Road and use the trees for shade.
Even if the sidewalks need to be repaired or replaced, the county should find a way to do it that doesn't require cutting down the trees, she said.
"You could always replace a sidewalk, but you can't replace a tree," she said. "It changes the neighborhood."