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Arborist OKs LIRR trim

The Long Island Rail Road began its much-maligned pruning process along a leafy stretch of track in Forest Hills last week, but a neighborhood arborist gave it two green thumbs up.

“I think they are doing an acceptable job given their parameters,” said Fouad Beydoun, who is not officially an arborist, but maintains all of the trees in the private Forest Hills Gardens Corp. neighborhood. “They had to get rid of these things that are encroaching all over their property.”

The railroad pruned weeds and greenery that was growing within 8 feet of sensitive electrical wires that run high above the tracks and power signals, Beydoun said.

“Nothing is being cut that is bigger than a half dollar [in diameter],” he said.

Beydoun was around for the last pruning initiative by the LIRR roughly four years ago. He compared this round of trimming to simply giving the area a haircut.

“Everything they are clearing now is what they trimmed four years ago,” he said.

But Gardens residents were in an uproar when the LIRR chopped down a tree more than 50 years old June 18.

“That tree is completely over the two eastbound tracks and one part of the westbound track. That tree should have been removed four years ago,” Beydoun said. “If it was in the gardens, I would remove it.”

But Anna Guasto, a Gardens resident and president of the LIRR committee, which keeps an eye on the railroad, said that the tree was growing upright and should not have been trimmed.

“The trunk was not leaning in that direction. We were saying trim the tree or find a substitute,” she said. “These trees were left alone for decades.”

But the tracks need to be kept clear, according to Beydoun, since that particular stretch of the LIRR is a major conduit for the rest of Long Island.

“If you have to shut down these lines here, you basically affect the trains schedule from top to bottom,” he said.

A spokesman for the LIRR said safety is always the first concern when keeping Mother Nature in check along the tracks.

“Rail safety is always the first priority of our vegetation management program while maintaining a natural barrier between railroad property and our neighbors whenever and wherever possible,” said Sal Arena.

But residents are still fuming about the railroad’s last pruning initiative in 2007 when roughly six trees were lopped off across the street from the co-op apartments on 6 Burns St. Beydoun said the trees were entangled in a track signal.

“If they were entangled with the wires, they were entangled for the last 80 years,” said Gardens resident Russ Gundlach. “I fail to see how they could be such a problem in such a short amount of time.”

Gundlach and other residents have asked the LIRR to replant evergreen trees — which will not drop leaves all over the track in the fall — along the corridor or install a sound barrier. Gundlach cited a similar case in 2007 when the railroad agreed to plant the trees and maintain them for at least a year along a stretch in Flushing.

He added that the railroad said four years ago they would replace the trees after removing the sound barrier that formerly stood across from the co-op.

“You told us you couldn’t plant the trees because you were going to repair the wall,” he said. “But then you tore down the wall and didn’t plant anything.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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