State Senator Tony Avella last week released the results of a survey he mailed randomly to thousands of constituents throughout his district inquiring about the state of the city-owned trees in front of their homes.
His office got 1,250 of the surveys back in one month. Of those who responded, 66 percent said they feared for the safety of their family and home because of the condition of the tree by their house. One woman even wrote “absolutely terrified” in all capital letters on the top of her survey.
“This will give me the ammunition to go to the city and say more needs to be done,” Avella said.
The state senator said a number of the complaints his office receives are concerning the state of city-owned trees, or trees that are located in the road right-of-way, usually between the sidewalk and the street.
Avella said part of the problem is the city's own policy of pruning the trees every seven years. He said often times when a resident alerts the city about a dangerous situation, the Parks Department doesn't actually inspect the tree, but only checks its records to see when it was serviced last.
In fact, the survey asked homeowners if they had ever requested the city to prune or remove a tree in front of their house. Of the just over half who said they had, more than one-third had to wait over five years to have the work done, if it was ever completed.
“Homeowners should not be scared of the city tree in front of their house,” Avella said. “The city has to put enough money in the budget and hire more people to prune and remove dead trees.”
The survey also asked for more specific details. For example, 23 percent said the tree in front of their home was overgrown, while 24 percent responded it needed to be removed.
Avella said the fact that 26 percent of the people took time to fill out the survey and mail it back to his office stating that the tree in front of their home was safe was an indication that the survey was accurate.
“It wasn't just people responding to complain,” he said, adding he thinks there would have been more negative responses, but the city recently pruned the trees in some parts of his district.
The survey also asked if any trees had caused damage to the sidewalk. Of those who responded, 65 percent said that it had, but only 29 percent responded that they were aware of the city's Tree and Sidewalks Repair Program, which fixes the sidewalk at no cost to the homeowner.
“So many of these homeowners are paying to have the sidewalk repaired themselves,” said Avella.
Avella said he plans to forward the negative survey responses to the mayor's office and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver.
“They are going to get hit with about 700 letters,” he said. “I'm sure it's the same situation in the other boroughs.”