The old, gracious trees of Flatbush and Midwood add an inestimable charm to area streets. But, limitations on the ability of the citys Department of Parks & Recreation to prune these trees means that, even with a 10-year pruning cycle, the city has not gotten to every street tree within the two communities. At the January meeting of Community Board 14s Community Environment Committee, Andrew Rabb, Brooklyn director of forestry for the Parks Department, acknowledged, Pruning is probably the biggest concern that people have. The 10-year rotation, he said, is, Probably too long a rotation, but thats what were on. There are still areas of CB 14 that havent been pruned as part of that. Theres a lot of trees to prune, he said. There have got to be over 10,000 trees here. The area, Rabb stressed, is a unique area because of its wealth of beautiful, old trees. With old, large trees, he noted, come certain problems that you dont have in areas that dont have trees of this size. Last year, Rabb said, the department pruned, Primarily in the area north of Cortelyou Road, to Caton Avenue, between Argyle Road and Coney Island Avenue. This year, he continued, We are doing basically all of Marlborough and Rugby Roads, from Caton down to Foster. One issue that arises regarding tree pruning, noted Rabb, relates to, Pruning trees too high. We have to prune them so trucks can drive underneath them. As bad as it is for us to prune a tree up to 15 feet over the street, its much worse when a garbage truck hits that branch and takes the whole tree with it, which happens enough, and its not always the garbage trucks fault. We also try to get trees at least 10 feet away from the roof, he went on, stressing that, This does not mean that we prune it back completely, especially here, where we have such large trees. You are still going to have branches going over the roof of your house. As long as there is clearance there and the branches are sound, we dont take those off. In 2005, said Rabb, the Parks Department pruned 615 trees within the community boards catchment area. A total of 191 area trees were removed, he said, and 86 stumps were ground out. I know that stumps are a big problem pretty much everywhere, Rabb acknowledged, noting that there was a borough-wide backlog for stump removal One way of getting rid of a street tree stump, he suggested, is for the adjacent homeowner to request a new tree. We can usually keep up with that, Rabb said. Nonetheless, he said, it can take up to two years from the time it is requested to get a new tree planted. In spring, 2005, said Rabb, the Parks Department planted 83 trees in CB 14. Based on emergency calls received, a total of 16 trees in the area came down in wind, in that period of time, he said, as well as 232 limbs. There were also 79 emergency calls from the CB 14 area in that time period regarding hanging limbs. Calls for tree removal or pruning, said Rabb, are prioritized based on whether the situation is potentially dangerous. We give higher priority to trees that have storm damage or hanging limbs, or are blocking traffic signals or stop signs, anything deemed hazardous. If we mark a tree for removal, we have a policy for 30 days, he said. The only time it goes over is if theres a parking issue. A major problem is lack of staff. We have 19 climbers and pruners that do the work for 120,000 street trees, said Rabb, a state of affairs that means that most pruning is done by contractors, and it can be expensive. It costs anywhere from $50 to $700 or $800 for a large tree, and prices arent going down when we do contracts. And, the larger the trees, the fewer we can do.
©2006 Community News Group
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