After a 30-ft. tree that was reportedly rotted from the inside fell across the front Andrew Faglio’s South Park Place home in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, tearing the 4,000-volt electrical cables off of his elderly neighbor’s home, the New Hyde Park resident took his complaint to the village board during their meeting on November 20 at the village hall.
“It sounded like Godzilla fell on the front lawn,” he said, relating how the tree stretched the utility pole, causing fires in both the trees and bushes as the wire landed on a chain link fence causing a freak power surge that sent current through the earth, up ground wires into his home, arching a pipe, melting tiles in his basement and almost ignited his wood paneling. Faglio’s electrician said that he had about 2 minutes before the house would have been on fire if he had not rushed into a dark, smoking basement and hit the breaker.
“I feel that there are a lot of trees that the town owns between the sidewalk and the curb that should be inspected and trimmed,” he said. “You should have some sort of tree inspector. If you see something like this, this tree could have killed anybody who was walking by or walking by, it would have killed them.”
While no deaths from falling trees were reported in the village, the storm has impacted the way the municipality views its trees – at least somewhat.
“We are in a process now in light of this whole ordeal, we are going through the entire village and inspecting for trees that may have been compromised with the storm and just being more proactive now,” superintendent of public works Tom Gannon said. “It’s hard to enforce the ones on the property. Honestly, the best thing to do but not that any of us can do but at this point I get so many calls now from homeowners’ insurances, they’re doing it for us; the properties themselves, homeowners insurances. And now it’s probably going to be even more in this area since this ordeal, I’ve had calls like crazy for sidewalks and different rules and regulations on decks and handrails and homeowners, the insurance companies have been brutal on homeowners in the area lately.”
New Hyde Park spends more than $60,000 per year on tree trimming.
The Town of North Hempstead had also enacted a “controversial” regulation, according to deputy mayor Robert Lofaro, that any resident wishing to cut down a tree on their property needed a permit and authorization to do so.
“In an area like the oaks just south of Hillside Avenue, it’s part of the character of the community – the big, tall trees – and they didn’t want that to be changed,” he said. “That met a lot of resistance. If we were to impose upon residents that they are required to provide the village with a insurance certificate or an arborist’s certification that the tree is on somewhat regular basis, they may look at that as just another fee.”
Of the approximately 80 trees that went down in the village, about 75 percent according to Lofaro were in extremely healthy condition.
“The challenge that we have now is that we’re being inundated with requests to cut trees down just because people don’t want trees anymore. What that’s going to do to the character of the village... I would hate to think that I would live in a community that’s just treeless.”
Faglio also brought up another one of his neighbors who had trimmed her tree last year two-thirds of the way up, which might offer a solution in hurricane situations.
“There should be a specification where if the tree can live with two-thirds of it, just the trunk and then the top portion because then it’ll catch less wind, the’ll be less sail area,” he said.
Mentioning that the village would be holding a meeting with its legal counsel next week, mayor Daniel Petruccio said that “we’ve never ever delved into this area of private property maintenance before. Presently with the staffing that we have, I don’t want to promise we’re going to enact something that may be a very elaborate thing. We’re definitely as concerned as you are about what we saw in the storm.”