Today’s news:

Reward offered for information on Floral Park tree destroyer

City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and the Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces are offering a $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever was responsible for cutting down three Floral Park trees and trying to make the crime appear as if it were due to Hurricane Irene.

The city Parks Department, Weprin and the parks group all agree the trees cut between 256th and 257th streets on Hillside Avenue were not downed by the storm and sawdust is visible near the stumps.

Parks said damages for the vandalism was pegged at $11,000.

A new store, Balaji Super Bazar, is about to open up where the trees were cut, but civic leaders and elected officials stopped short of saying the owner was responsible for the illegal cutting.

Weprin said he will use $1,000 of his campaign funds to pay for a reward while Fred Kress, head of the Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces, said his group will pony up $500.

“Maybe we’ll get a call or somebody’s going to squirm a little bit,” Kress said. “I want them to have a sleepless night knowing one day they’ll be caught.”

Kress said he had a message for whoever was responsible for cutting down the trees.

“If you’re going to mess with the trees, you’re going to get caught,” he said. “Anybody messes around with them, there could be a lot of types of repercussions. You got to be the lowest on the evolutionary scale to cut down these trees.”

Weprin said the community was not taking the vandalism lightly.

“This is a serious crime for us in the neighborhood,” he said. “These trees were deliberately taken down. We care about our trees and that’s the message we want to send.”

Mike Augugliaro of the Queens Colony Civic Association said it was clear the vandal took advantage of Hurricane Irene to make it appear the storm was responsible for the damage, but it was also clear that the cutting was done by an individual.

“You take a look at them. Nature did that? It’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s common sense. You can see it’s sawed. You can see the sawdust. This was not an act of Mother Nature.”

Mike Castellano of the Lost Community Civic Association said he was in disbelief when he saw the three damaged trees.

“I just can’t believe that someone would have the gall to cut down perfectly healthy trees,” he said.

Detective Jovoda Cooper of the 105th Precinct said detectives canvassed the area around the crime looking for businesses that had security cameras to see if the culprit was caught on tape.

The incident led some in Floral Park to become amateur sleuths.

A resident who only asked to be identified by his first name, Tom, said he was a professional carpenter.

“If you look at the cuts, this is a circular saw,” he said.

Other residents said that since the cuts were made low on the trees, they surmised that the vandalism was committed by a short person or a tall man with very good knees.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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