Saturday, October 31, 2009

Open Letter to Board of Trustees

Dear Mayor and Board,

Once again, Con Ed is on the verge of seriously defacing a village legacy:

As previously circulated earlier today (Friday Oct 30th, 2009), the Tree Commission has received some calls complaining about the result of Con Ed line clearing in the area around Osceola and Havemeyer. The crews have come in and pruned mature trees, leaving them in awkward and unacceptable conditions. I've taken a look at one particular tree in this in this area: a mature oak at the corner of Havemeyer and Deep Hollow Close (which had been pruned nicely by the village either earlier this year or sometime last year?) was left in rather grotesque shape by the Con Ed crews. They limbed-up the tree quite high to remove branches near the power lines, but decided to leave 3 massive branches partitaly pruned on the lower part of the tree that run thru the telephone lines (because they are NOT pruning for telephone line clearances). These branches reach out with a weirdly disquieting impact.  The net result is, as I said, rather grotesque. I can think of no other word for it.

This sort of callous action by Con Ed will result in a loss of real property value for the homeowner - a specimen Oak tree which once stood majestically is now something which will cause a passerby to wince and wonder what awful fate befell the tree. It's not hard to imagine that the net impact would be a lessening of the home's property value BELOW that of simply having no tree at all. Which is a sad state of affairs for the owner, for the neighborhood and for our community as a whole.

According to court precedence including cases on Long Island, Con Ed's line clearing can be stopped outright if such actions can be shown to reasonably  result in a loss of real property values for the affected property owners and neighborhoods.

I bring this up as an urgent matter because what many consider to be the most important and visually iconic stretch of trees in the village - the 2 groups of large Sycamores along S.Broadway (along the Columbia Nevis  property) - are now at risk. As of Friday, the line clearing crews are about 200 or so feet north of these trees and pruning the surrounding Columbia Nevis woods drastically. If they continue with the practices which they have been demonstrating so far, these Sycamores stand a high risk of being irreparably mutilated / damaged, destroying forever a visual icon of the village on par with the N. Broadway Sycamores of Sleepy Hollow.

In previous review meetings, Con Ed's consulting line clearing arborist had promised to leave these trees alone, but our concern is if the line crews have been briefed on this? Doubtful. Upon double checking with our Con Ed rep, Greg Nilsson was told that in fact, Con Ed IS planning to prune these specific trees - planning not just to remove dead wood but to remove significant leaders on some of them. This will result not only in distasteful visual & aesthetic damage, but will inflict great stress on the mature trees, perhaps leading to more rapid decline and loss.

The Sycamores along S.Broadway are probably the single most notable feature of our village's "entry way", iconic as part of being a Tree CIty USA, and a century-old historical resource which must be protected at all costs, even if it requires legal action (stop work violation orders) to stop the planned pruning. I don't say this lightly - in my opinion the implications of damaging these trees will prove to be a social and political bombshell in the village.

Greg has set up a meeting for Monday, Nov 2nd 10AM to review the situation with Con Ed. However, in preliminary discussions, the Con Ed rep has already taken the stance that they have a Federal and State mandate to do the pruning. They refuse to consider the aspect of historical impact or property value impact. Nor can they justify their claim as to why these trees present a high and immediate risk.

The village must be prepared to immediately call a conference with senior Con Ed management to discuss not only the potential defacement of our historical heritage, but in addition, to complain strongly about the apparent lack of supervision and training of the crews. Con Ed will of course insist that the crews are monitored and properly trained AND that they are pruning to ANSI standards. The latter statement, in the case of the sample trees near Osceola, is arguable incorrect. Also, it is unclear where the line clearing arborist or team supervisor is at the moment - certainly not monitoring these crews at work on our streets. The village should insist that the crews are monitored for quality control - until Con Ed can show us by real world action, not rhetoric, that their crews are in fact properly trained and under continuous supervision and quality control. We should consider having our consulting arborist oversee and concur on pruning in high value areas or individual species trees, as well.

Perhaps by the time of the VIllage Board meeting Monday night this situation will be resolved satisfactorily. However, I strongly urge members of the BOT and others to come to the street-side meeting (on Broadway) and demonstrate by a show-of-force that Irvington cares about it's tree resources. I also urge the village BOT to reach out to senior Con Ed management to do whatever it takes to protect our heritage.

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