I would like to thank the Juniper Park Civic Association for allowing me the opportunity to discuss an important issue that affects residents throughout Queens. As many of you know, I represent the 11th Senatorial District in the State Senate, which encompasses many residential communities in Northern and Eastern Queens, similar to those found within the Juniper Park Civic Association area. One of the biggest issues my constituents deal with is City tree maintenance and I know this problem extends well beyond my district.

I have been a long time critic of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and their inability and unwillingness to properly maintain city trees and to respond to homeowner requests for tree pruning and tree removals. I am furious at DPR’s policy goal of planting a million trees while there is a clear failure to properly maintain the trees that are currently planted throughout the City. Unfortunately, during Hurricane Sandy, many of these same trees fell on to the street and on to homes, with often devastating consequences.

Many of those downed trees that either fell on homes or blocked streets are the same trees that constituents have been calling on the City to remove or prune for years. This just further illustrated what I had been saying for years as a former City Council Member and now State Senator– the City needs to do a far better job at maintaining the trees that are already planted before planting a million more. Going forward, there needs to be a concrete plan in place to address this serious problem.

As a result, I have developed the following plan of action:
• Formation of a Tree Policy Review Committee comprised of independent arborists to evaluate current tree maintenance rules and regulations
• An immediate temporary halt to the Million Tree Planting program until such time as new rules and procedures are put into place
• Purchase of necessary equipment for tree maintenance
• Increase funding for tree pruning to accommodate a five year pruning schedule
• Eliminate policy of not removing a live tree
Provide funding to eliminate back log of stump removals
• Establish “shelf life” for the various tree species
• Acknowledge responsibility for damages to homeowner sewer/water lines by City tree roots
Provide proper funding for the Tree and Sidewalk repair program and expand it to include cooperatives and condos.

I have asked Mayor Bloomberg to review my suggestions and let me know how the City will change its Tree policies so damages caused by trees from future storms will be lessened. People’s lives are in danger as a result of the current City tree policy. If we take better care of our trees, the potential damages to life and property during storms such as Sandy will be significantly reduced. The time for action is now.