Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pleasantville To Con Edison: Stop Cutting Our Trees

An article from Jan 12th edition of The Examiner (p. 1) article by Sam Barron on Con Edison. (See also the page 8 Editorial):

State Sen. andrea Stewart-Cousins, right, gazes at some of the bare landscape last Saturday in Greenburgh during a site visit. Earlier in the day, Stewart-Cousins listened to angry residents in Pleasantville who urged state officials to clamp down on Con Edison.

Village residents delivered a clear message to state officials last weekend: they want Con Edison to stay away from trees in Pleasantville.

About 30 people attended a special meeting on Jan. 9 at Village Hall to demand that Con Edison stop cutting down trees near its transmission lines. Th e meeting was organized by State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins and attended by members of the village board, County Legislator John Nonna and representatives of the state’s Department of Public Service.

“We all know what this has done to the community,” Nonna said. “Everyone has concern and anger about the destruction that occurred.”

The meeting was the latest chapter on the issue that started in November in Pleasantville when Con Edison clear cut an estimated 80 trees at Nannahagan Park. No representatives from Con Edison attended the meeting.

Village trustees said they are still pressing for a stop work order against Con Edison to save the remaining trees.

“These trees take too long to grow,” Trustee Brian Skarstad said. “You can undo 20 years of work in under an hour. Then Con Edison simply apologizes and just says ‘Oops.’”

Despite palpable anger toward Con Edison, Deputy Mayor Mindy Berard said the utility is still cutting trees seven days a week and has been gutting backyards and parks.

“We have had backyards totally get cut down,” Berard said. “One hundred-year old trees are just being dropped and left there. This is unacceptable. There’s lots of frustration and anger here and rightly so. We want a stop work order issued.”

Stewart-Cousins, who commended the residents for turning out for the weekend meeting, said that excessive tree cutting by utilities is a statewide issue, not just limited to the area. Later that day she attended another forum in Greenburgh and listened to similar anger from residents there.

Jim Austin, a deputy director for the Department of Public Service overseeing energy efficiency and the environment, said the call for tree trimming near power lines came after the August 2003 blackout that crippled the Northeast. This caused the state to hire a consultant and force utilities to devise a right of way management plan after the federal government ordered that vegetation that threatens power lines must be cleared.

“If they don’t own the tree or have an easement, they don’t have a right to do any work there,” Austin said. “If they are doing it, let us know.”

Residents responded that Con Edison has been doing work on private properties. Stewart-Cousins added that if mistakes are made, they can’t be reversed.

“We don’t allow them to run roughshod,” Austin responded. “If it can be shown it is your property, we’re ready to work with you.”

Skarstad contended that the swath of decimated trees has occurred because Con Edison ignores its own guidelines. The state officials said they would examine the matter.

Village resident Mary Doerr said that when she drives on the Sprain Brook Parkway, she notices that there are no trees to identify.

“It’s devastating,” Doerr said. “It’s blatantly disgusting. Everything has been wiped out.”

Con Edison’s practices has also decimated resident Jennifer Frawley’s backyard.

“It feels like they don’t even care,” Frawley charged. “It looks disgusting, it’s so bad.”

Reaction after the meeting among village residents regarding the effectiveness of the forum was mixed, with some expressing concern that it won’t have any impact.

“A lot of 100-year-old trees just get clear cut,” resident Gene Paulen said. “It makes me sick to my stomach. We’re also suffering a financial loss, with our property values decreasing.”

After the meeting, Trustee Jonathan Cunningham said nothing has changed on Con Edison’s end since they wiped out most of the vegetation at Nannahagen Park.

“Con Edison has to stop,” Cunningham said. “The commission has heard this before, but it still goes on. It’s ridiculous. Con Edison may have realized that they made a mistake, but they still have their plans in place from the last few months.”

Stewart-Cousins said it was important that the state realizes the extent of damage that Con Edison has caused and that she hopes to take a tour of Nannahagen Park with the Department of Public Service.

“We will see if we can’t tighten the reins on the utility companies,” Stewart-Cousins said. “All goals have to be met without creating a destructive environment.”

Mayor Peter Scherer, who did not attend the meeting, said he expects the village to receive compensation for the excessive tree trimming that Con Edison did in Nannahagen Park.

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