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Baysiders near LIRR wait for tree planting

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Last spring Charles Stanley would look out the kitchen window of his home on 208th Street in Bayside and be at peace.

Birds were chirping. The lush trees behind his house were in full bloom. He could barely see the Long Island Rail Road as it whizzed behind his house.

But this year Stanley said the view from his kitchen is markedly different. The birds and the trees are gone. Instead, litter and a wall of graffiti are seen just over his wooden fence. And like clockwork, Stanley sees and hears the trains as they pass by.

And it's these changes that are prompting Stanley and a group of his neighbors to consider legal action against the LIRR, claiming the agency destroyed their quality of life when it removed hundreds of trees alongside the railroad tracks last year.

The loss of the trees, which residents say acted as a sound buffer for train noise, has been the ire of Little Neck residents as well. In a meeting with state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and various civic groups last fall, the LIRR agreed to replant some of the trees, records show.

The trees, which sat on railroad property, were removed from the side of the tracks by the LIRR throughout the borough as a safety measure because foliage falling from the trees could cause trains to slip.

Padavan sent a letter a to LIRR President Helena Williams Monday on behalf of area residents who worry that the LIRR has failed on its promise to replant trees and clean up debris along the tracks. In his letter, Padavan asked for the details of the LIRR's plan to replant the trees.

Salvatore Arena, a LIRR spokesman, said the agency looks forward to working with Padavan in addressing the concerns of the residents.

The group of homeowners, who live along the Port Washington line near 208th Street, also is upset about the amount of litter and graffiti lining the train tracks, which they say has become worse since the trees' removal.

"I know they have eminent domain, but that doesn't mean they should make this a garbage dump," Stanley said.

Gus Pafitis, who owns a Tudor-style apartment building on 209th Street, said he has received complaints from his tenants about the graffiti and lack of trees.

"Who would want to look at this?" he said, gesturing to the railroad just below his driveway.

The homeowners said they don't want to file a suit against the LIRR. They just want to know what's going to happen with the trees and mess behind their homes.

"Contact us," Stanley implored. "Let us know your plan to address the issue."

Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at kgagnon@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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