A Staten Island judge has upheld a $135,000 fine against a builder for improperly removing at least six trees without Parks Department permission on Shore Acres Road in order to build five houses in 2008. The one-family houses at 35, 43, 49, 55 and 61 Shore Acres Road are situated within the Special Natural Area District. Parks spokespersons last week however could provide no further details regarding the calculation of fines and tree-replacement policy. (Photo: Irving Silverstein/Staten Island Advance)
STATEN ISLAND How much are trees worth?
More than $135,000 in the case of the developer whom the city fined for removing at least six trees without permission around 2008 to construct five Shore Acres homes, according to the Staten Island Advance.
The spacious one-family houses at 35, 43, 49, 55 and 61 Shore Acres Road are situated within the Special Natural Area District, so designated to preserve unique natural characteristics, including trees, rock outcrops, steep slopes and a variety of botanic and aquatic environments.
Perched on a narrow, quiet street in the shadow of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the homes range in value from $665,000 to $947,000, according to online city Finance Department records.
A Staten Island justice recently upheld the fine against the builder, Block 3066 Inc., ruling the statute of limitations had elapsed before the company challenged the compensatory payment. Richard A. Rosenzweig, the Meiers Corners-based lawyer for Block 3066 said last week his client would appeal. The attorney, who’s affiliated with the firm Menicucci Villa & Associates declined further comment.
In a statement, a city Law Department spokeswoman said last week the city is “pleased” with the decision and confident it would be upheld on appeal. Last May, Block 3066 sued the city and its Department of Parks and Recreation in state Supreme Court, St. George, over the charges. In court papers, Block 3066 said it had removed “a number” of trees on the properties around 2008 due to their “unstable” condition.
“Severe” storms had felled some of the trees, while others were “dead” and “dangerous.” Court documents submitted by Block 3066 indicate at least 12 “dead” trees were on the lots. The Law Department spokeswoman said six trees, apparently, were improperly removed. In September of 2008, Parks informed Block 3066’s lawyer by letter that the builder had to pony up $135,038 to compensate the city for “unaccounted tree removals, missing and dead trees.”
“This amount reflects the quantitative value of the trees to the city’s street-tree natural infrastructure,” Parks wrote. The Law Department spokeswoman said the compensation Parks demanded for the destruction of city property wasn’t predicated on the trees being located in a Special Natural Area District. It was based on a Parks formula related to the trees’ sizes.
Parks spokespersons last week could provide no further details regarding the calculation of fines and tree-replacement policy. An important component of the natural landscape, trees help prevent erosion, while their leaves provide shelter from the weather. Trees also produce oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, besides moderating ground temperatures.
Staten Island Advance - February 14, 2011