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A Tree Flap Grows in Brooklyn

Brooklyn -

Poet William Blake once said, “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.”

Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents gave fresh meaning to Blake’s words last week at a Community Board 1 meeting as they voiced concerns about trees that get planted by the city and aren’t maintained.

And trees whose roots grow under sidewalks and buckle them.

And trees whose branches fall, creating potential hazards for senior citizens.

These concerns, and more, were among the chorus of complaints residents voiced in reaction a city official’s presentation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s MillionTreesNYC initiative, under which 5,400 new trees would be planted in Brooklyn by next spring.

Not so fast, residents said.

“I understand that they want to put the trees in, but they have to maintain them,” said Marie Leanza, 65, who has waited two years for the city to remove the stump in front of her house.

The trees the city planted in front of Leanza’s home four years ago have lifted the sidewalk.

But CB 1, which has the fifth lowest number of trees planted among Brooklyn’s 18 districts — at 9,351, that’s only 54 percent of the available tree pits — needs more trees, said Eric Peterson, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation manager.

Peterson presented to CB 1 the initiative to plant one million trees across the city’s five boroughs over the next decade. This is particularly important for Brooklyn, which has which has less than the 10 percent of the city’s current 5.2 million trees.

Peterson emphasized how trees lower air temperatures, reduce air pollution, capture and store carbon emissions, save energy and help prevent storm water runoff. That’s on top of improved human health, increased property values and better quality of life. Peterson even put a price on how much a tree saves in costs to the city: $14.94.

The residents had more immediate concerns.

When Leanza called 311 to get the stump outside her home at 198 Powers Street removed, she was told the city didn’t have any money and she would have to wait.

“We have people on a seven-year list waiting for their tree to be pruned. You need to deal with tree pruning and stump removal before planting trees,” another resident told Peterson.

“Trees are a trip hazard,” said board member Del Teague.

Peterson acknowledged some problems with tree maintenance. Amonth ago there were 22 stumps still to be removed in the neighborhood, he said.

The city has 21.5 maintenance crews. But by 2010, it hopes to have 30 more.

There were those who responded positively to the mayor’s initiative at the meeting.

“Trees are good for the environment and make the area look a lot nicer. We need more trees in Brooklyn,” said board member Yenfiri Gomez.

“This city doesn’t have the best track record of thinking things through properly, but it’s doing OK with this,” said Heather Roslund, another board member.