A 100-year-old beech tree, left as it appeared in 2010,...

A 100-year-old beech tree, left as it appeared in 2010, on Candee Avenue was removed this week. At right, the lawn as it appeared Tuesday after the tree was cut down. (Aug. 2, 2011) Credit: Alexi Knock

Sean Mulligan and several of his neighbors watched in horror as a more than 100-year-old beech tree was torn down Tuesday in a Sayville neighborhood.

The tree in the front yard of an 18th century home at the corner of Candee Avenue and Main Street was a community favorite, said Mulligan, an architect who lives nearby.

"I feel sick to my stomach," Mulligan said. "I don't think the homeowners realized what they were doing, but this tree has seen so many generations come and go, and to cut it down just because they can afford to is a shame."

The owner of the home where the tree is located, Maryann Osborne, moved in a year ago and soon started noticing large branches falling onto her yard.

“I loved that tree, but I don’t feel I had a choice in the matter,” Osborne said. “Only a lunatic would take it down for no reason.”

In September, Osborne called South Country Arboriculture Inc. to come out and look at the beech tree. It was treated for severe dieback of the upper trunk, bleeding cankers and tree-attacking insects called borers.

“The tree was nearing the end of its life and under severe stress before the treatment,” said Jeffrey Jensen, arborist and owner of South Country Arboriculture Inc. “When we left the tree, though it looked pretty good.”

To preserve a large tree of this age typically costs $1,000 to $2,000 a year, Jensen said.

“I haven’t seen it in a year, so I don’t know its condition, but I’m shocked that it was removed because I know she really did like that tree,” Jensen said.

After spending $1,046 to prune and trim the tree twice and $1,091 on the arborist for treatment in an attempt to save it, Osborne found it necessary to cut the tree down to prevent decay and more limbs from falling, she said.

Neighbors snapped pictures in front of Osborne’s house Tuesday morning during the more than six hours it took for the landmark tree, which had stood well over the two-story house, to be demolished, said Marianne Fulfaro, a Candee Avenue resident since 1977.

“There were no signs of that tree rotting,” Fulfaro said. “This was a criminal act.”

Fulfaro called the police, who told her the tree removal was up to Osborne since it was on her property.

“I was pounding on her door and raving like a maniac,” Fulfaro said as tears welled in her eyes. “I was almost going to chain myself to the tree.”

To remove a tree in the Town of Islip, homeowners must obtain a land clearing permit from the Planning and Development Department. This permit is granted depending on several factors such as the condition and size of the tree, said Sean Colgan, town senior planner.

Osborne never applied for a permit to remove the beech tree, he said.

Osborne says her daughter had called the town to ask if a permit was needed. According to Osborne, her daughter was told that due to the distance of the tree from the sidewalk, none was necessary. After measuring, Osborne found the trunk closest to the sidewalk was 35 feet away, she said.

“If they said I needed a permit I would have gotten a permit,” Osborne said.

After receiving complaints from her neighbors Tuesday, Osborne submitted the bills from her arborist to the Town of Islip to file a claim that the tree was dying and needed to be removed.

Depending on the town’s decision, Osborne may be forced to plant new trees if it is found the tree should not have been removed.

“I’ve never been in this situation in my life,” Osborne said. “I was up all last night dreaming of that tree.”

Picture: A 100-year-old beech tree, left as it appeared in 2010, on Candee Avenue.