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City removes hazardous tree

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If a tree falls in Astoria and the city has not witnessed it, does it pose a threati

A longtime resident and his neighbors say they feel safer following a five-year battle with the city to chop down a rotting tree that finally culminated with its removal last week.

Nick Matsis, who has lived in his home at 24th Street and Ditmars Boulevard for 16 years, said the tree frequently dropped heavy branches onto his property and home for the past five years.

But he said his effort to get the tree removed was long met with resistance by the city. Con Edison finally knocked the tree down July 1 after it had damaged power lines connecting to Matsis’ home.

“It was like a time bomb,” he said. “I was afraid to let my grandchildren play in the front yard. Now I have some peace of mind.”

Matsis, who formerly worked at Astoria’s Steinway piano factory, said the tree’s first branch fell on his property five years ago, knocking out a power line and causing it to spark. In the summer of 2006, another branch took out a power line to his home. The following year, one fell through the middle of three windows on the front of his home.

In February, a 27-foot branch damaged Matsis’ power lines, smashed his front yard fence and struck a parked car on the side of the street, he said.

“One minute before, there were two ladies standing there with a baby carriage and then it fell,” he said. “I said, ‘This tree is going to kill somebody.’”

A neighbor called the city Parks Department to complain about the tree, but was told the problem had been resolved, Matsis said. But the tree was still standing.

Neighbor Moe Green, a father of two, said he had long been concerned about the tree due to its proximity to PS 122. Hundreds of children would walk underneath the tree to and from school each day, he said.

“Unless someone gets killed, the city will not act,” he said. “I’ve seen tree cutters in this neighborhood within the last year, but the city still did nothing. During school hours, tree limbs would be falling on the sidewalk.”

Con Ed trimmed the trees branches and the Parks Department removed the tree and mulched the site last week. The city will plant another tree in its place, a Parks spokeswoman said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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