January 10, By Hannah Wulkan
A Verizon subcontractor working on 80th Street received five summonses Sunday for damaging trees during an illegal excavation.
The excavation between 35th and 37th Avenues damaged several trees, DNAinfo first reported, though the extent of the damage is still under investigation, said Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor.
Residents notified the Jackson Heights Beautification Group about the damage to the trees. The group then brought it to the attention of Councilman Daniel Dromm and the Parks Department on Wednesday night.
The Parks Department investigated the complaint, finding that the subcontractors were working without a permit from Parks and without an arborist on site, both of which are required, according to Lalor.
The contractors were given five summonses, four for tree damage and one for operating without a permit, and were ordered to stop work until an arborist could be on site.
“Trees are living, breathing parts of our communities which provide substantial benefits to our city, and as such, they are protected under City laws. Failing to take the proper precautions when working around trees is a serious offence and can do irreparable damage to our urban forest,” Lalor said.
Both community members and the Parks Department are concerned about damage to the roots of the trees as well, and Lalor said Parks would be following up with a further inspection of the trees.
“This is a flagrant violation of the rules. They went ahead and dug a three-foot deep trench to within feet of the trees, damaging and possibly killing these trees which are a big part of the character of our block,” said President of the JHBG Len Maniace.
In addition to damaging the trees, safety could also be a concern, explained Maniace. “Depending on how many and how big the roots were that they cut some of these trees could come crashing down in a storm, killing or injuring people,” he said.
Moving forward, Dromm is looking to schedule a meeting with Verizon to discuss the violations and get them to stop using the subcontractor.
A Verizon spokeswoman said she would look in to the issue but did not respond by press time.