William Boss (above) yesterday stares at a storm-damaged tree in front of his Queens home -while the city cut down another that just needed a pruning. Critics says the city continues its irresponislbly policy of not allocating the adequate funds to properly care for its trees. The Mayor responded with his usual lack of accountably. (Photos: James Messerschmidt)
A tree grows in Queens -- but without the staff to care for it.
That was the claim yesterday of a legislator and his constituents, who charged that Mayor Bloomberg's million-trees program is rotten to the root because it doesn't include funds for routine pruning, according to the New York Post.
"They're taking away money from basic maintenance and instead using it for planting new trees," charged state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens). "It's always been a problem. But this is worse now than it's ever been."
Avella offered his assessment at the corner of 77th Avenue and 269th Street in New Hyde Park, where he said a tree damaged in a storm nearly two months ago faces a two-year wait for a trimming.
Neighbors say the issue goes beyond aesthetics.
"I think it's deplorable that you can't get the city to do something," complained Janet Boss, 77. "I'm just waiting for somebody to get hurt."
In Whitestone, retired pizza-shop owner Vincent Ronacher, 63, was still fuming about a cherry tree planted by his late wife 30 years ago that he said was cut down by Parks Department personnel in 2009 after he called up requesting a pruning.
To add costly insult to the injury, Ronacher said he was fined $25,712 for fiddling with the tree himself before city personnel got there.
"It makes me crazy," he said. "It makes we wonder what kind of laws we have now."
Homeowners face hefty fines if they take matters into their own hands.
One of Avella's constituents, Steve Soorko, was fined $105,654 for allegedly inflicting severe damage on a 70-year-old tree off his property. Avella said he merely pruned it. A woman who answered the door at the Soorko home declined comment "on the advice of counsel."
Fines are assessed based on a tree's circumference, location, size and type.
Parks officials defended their system and insisted there are no delays when it comes to removing dangerous trees.
"Ninety-nine percent of 311 requests for street tree removal were addressed within 30 days, and we completed 149 percent of our annual pruning target," said Vickie Karp, the agency's spokeswoman.
She said agency staffers and contractors pruned more than 30,000 trees in fiscal 2010 and removed nearly 9,000 dead or unhealthy ones.
One insider said Avella met last month with Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who explained that there are 5 million trees in the city that are pruned on a seven-year cycle.
"We cannot monitor the health of each one," said the insider.