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Bloomy splits with Avella on tree pruning

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week in reaction to what he called the mayor’s “cavalier attitude” concerning a the senator’s stance on city tree maintenance.

Avella invited reporters to the New Hyde Park home of one of his constituents July 18 to illustrate what he characterized as the city Parks Department’s unwillingness and inability to properly respond to requests for tree pruning and stump removals.

“A number of years ago, Michael Bloomberg came up with a plan to plant 1 million trees. If the mayor wants people to accept trees and he wants to plant 1 million trees, you have to take care of the trees that are on the street now,” Avella said under the sprawled-out limbs of a tree outside the home of William Boss on the corner of 77th Avenue and 269th Street.

The senator said he believed the Parks Department was using funds to plant trees under the mayor’s MillionTreesNYC initiative that should be used to prune trees currently in place.

At an unrelated press conference in Long Island City the same day, a reporter asked the mayor what he thought about Avella’s claim.

“We could cut all other services and devote 100 percent of our resources to tree pruning,” Bloomberg said. “Whoever this state senator is, he should certainly call our office and we’ll have a professional pruner talk to him.”

Avella sent a letter to the mayor the following day.

“I find it extremely disturbing that you would resort to political rhetoric in an attempt to dismiss an issue that is plaguing thousands of taxpaying home/property owners throughout the city. Instead of making such obnoxious remarks, you should take the time to listen to other people who are simply trying to make the city run more efficiently and increase safety for New Yorkers,” the letter read.

It goes on in sober terms to outline Avella’s position that poorly maintained trees pose safety risks to people and property.

“Your cavalier attitude towards their plight is a slap in the face to any homeowner who has been waiting for years for their tree to be pruned, have a stump removed or their sidewalk to be fixed under the Trees and Sidewalk Program. While I applaud your goal to plant 1 million trees across the city, you need to take a serious look at why the agency is completely unable to address these issues,” the letter continued. “I am certainly available to show you the responses from the agency, which clearly indicate that it has failed in its mission.”

Avella’s office sent TimesLedger Newspapers three letters it had received from Parks, in which the department cited funding and pruning schedules as the primary determinants for when a tree is pruned.

Bloomberg’s office declined to comment on the letter.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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