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Workers clear thousands of stumps after Sandy

The Town of North Hempstead Highway Department removes

The Town of North Hempstead Highway Department removes a tree stump from a government strip on Lake Drive in Manhassett Hills. (Dec. 17, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

A gray day on Lake Drive in Manhasset Hills found an excavator plucking an oak stump weighing several tons out of the ground where the tree had pulled up the sidewalk as it fell.

The machine knocked excess dirt from the stump's root ball before lifting it into the back of a truck.

One down, thousands to go.

The thousands of trees that fell during superstorm Sandy and the subsequent nor'easter left another problem for Long Island: thousands of stumps stubbornly stuck in the ground, or tilting out of the soil, taking with them chunks of sidewalk and asphalt.

Thomas Tiernan, superintendent of highways for North Hempstead, said he estimated the town has about 2,000 stumps left after Sandy -- each of which must be ground up on-site, or excavated and hauled away to be ground up elsewhere.

"I don't think there was a street in North Hempstead that didn't have a tree down on it," Tiernan said.

At the town's landfill and the parking lot of North Hempstead Beach Park, mountains of trees and stumps sit waiting for the town's grinders to be repaired. Tiernan said they have been working overtime on mulching.

The situation is much the same in the neighboring Town of Hempstead, where spokesman Mike Deery said the town has dealt with about 2,000 tree stumps since Sandy.

A contractor the town hired has been removing the stumps and the sidewalks at an estimated cost of about $2 million, which Deery said the town hopes will be reimbursable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The City of Long Beach, however, plans to keep the stumps from its city-owned trees in place, according to city spokesman Gordon Tepper.

Smithtown has between 3,000 and 4,000 stumps, Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen said. Crews also must mark where uprooted trees may have affected underground power and gas lines.

More than 1,000 stumps remain in the Town of Oyster Bay, where spokeswoman Marta Kane said the town will remove the stumps eventually once they are documented for FEMA reimbursement.

Meanwhile, the City of Glen Cove is trying to deal with its 25 to 30 stumps, said Mayor Ralph Suozzi, "because . . . they are tripping hazards."

The East End towns, with their relative paucity of sidewalks, haven't reported a significant problem with stumps.

Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson said that several stumps need to be ground into chips, but do not pose an immediate problem. "It's not a priority for us right now."

Tiernan said crews in North Hempstead are going to try to get as many of the stumps removed and sidewalks fixed before winter forces the work to stop.

With Aisha Al-Muslim,

Bill Bleyer, Mitchell Freedman, Carl MacGowan and

Patrick Whittle

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