Mineola pauses tree removal after Foch protest

Mineola pauses tree removal after Foch protest
Foch Boulevard residents held a protest on July 20 where one of three trees was removed that day. (Photo from Cathryn Mezzo via Twitter)

The Village of Mineola has temporarily stopped cutting down trees on roads it plans to repave this year after residents unexpectedly came home to stumps last month.

The village is working with engineers and an arborist to determine how it can save as many trees as possible before work starts on those roads later this year, Mayor Scott Strauss said last week.

“We don’t take down trees for the sake of taking them down,” Strauss said at last Wednesday’s Village Board meeting.

Foch Boulevard residents noticed that three trees on their street had been removed as of July 20, resident Cathryn Mezzo said. One resident told Mezzo she went in the shower that morning and a large tree in her yard was gone when she came out.

The village only took down one of them, Strauss said; PSEG Long Island removed others that were causing problems with electrical lines.

Strauss sent a letter informing residents about the plans that day, but the lack of prior notice sparked a protest on the street.

The tree removal was preparation for a $1.2 million road repair project that will repave Foch Boulevard and at least four other streets in the coming months, Strauss said.

Mineola targets trees that are damaging roads, sidewalks or utility lines on streets that are set to be repaved, Strauss said. Three of six or seven such trees have come down so far, he said, but no more will be removed before the village’s consultants determine whether they can be saved.

Strauss acknowledged that there should have been more communication about what was happening. He met with several Foch Boulevard residents last week and they agreed that the village should consult experts before cutting down any more trees, he said.

“If [the arborist] thinks that we can save the trees somehow, and our engineers think that we can save the trees somehow, we’re going to save the trees,” Strauss said. “I don’t want to take down trees. No elected official does.”

Mezzo praised the village’s decision to consult an arborist and Strauss’ efforts to make up for the surprise tree removal.

She understands the need to keep sidewalks and roads safe, she said, but it was still a shock to see her neighborhood’s landscape changed.

“I’m hoping our bringing this to their attention as a serious issue was a good thing because then they’ll think things through more carefully,” Mezzo said.

Strauss said the village’s “aggressive” tree-planting program will replace each removed tree with a new one that will better fit the three-foot strip between the sidewalk and the curb.

Mezzo said she hopes those new trees will thrive and complement the area’s environment.

“Even if they put a new tree there, it’s not going to be the same,” she said.

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