Gardens group seeks allies

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Residents from the Forest Hills Gardens Corp. are looking for some fresh political muscle to take on the Long Island Rail Road after former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned last month,

The group met with representatives of state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) along with members of Community Board 6 near Burns Street and 71st Avenue, near where the LIRR recently cut down a tree along the tracks.

“They can’t get to Manhattan without going through Queens,” Koslowitz said in an interview. “My intention is going to be to have meetings with the LIRR every six months to see what their plans are.”

A spokeswoman for Hevesi said the state assemblyman’s office would work with Koslowitz to get a meeting the LIRR reps.

“The focus of this meeting will be to discuss future LIRR pruning practices, as well as replanting in some of the depleted grounds,” she said.

The LIRR pulled out of the scheduled meeting days before. A spokesman for the railroad said the rescheduled walkthrough will not be open to the press.

The walkthrough was supposed to be a discussion about a new tree-pruning initiative along the corridor between Forest Hills and Kew Gardens that was set to begin Thursday.

Similar campaigns have not gone over well in the past.

In 2007, the LIRR cut down roughly six trees and took out a sound barrier wall across from a Gardens apartment complex. In response, Weiner held a panel meeting with the community and the railroad, which committed to more open dialogue, according to residents.

“This is really ironic. As soon as Weiner resigned, they came in a big rush,” said Anna Guasto, president of the LIRR Committee, a neighborhood group that keeps tabs on the railroad’s pruning activities. “Whatever people say about Weiner, he was vocal and really put himself out there ... we supported him as a community.”

Even with a congressman on their side, residents said they still had not been able to make the LIRR stick to a promise it made after the initial tree-chopping campaign.

“I would like them to live up to the promise they made in 2004, that after they removed trees they would plant track-friendly ones,” said Mitchell Cohen, president of the Gardens.

Track-friendly trees would be evergreen, as opposed to the deciduous variety that drop mountains of dead leaves onto the ground during the fall. Those leaves fall onto the tracks and cause skidding problems for the trains when they are trying to brake, according to a spokesman for the LIRR.

Some of the trees have been growing for nearly 80 years and have not posed a problem. One resident said the recent pruning sessions were due to a new type of braking system on the M-7 trains that is especially vulnerable to brake problems.

“We would like to have a dialogue,” said Russ Gundlach, who has been a vocal opponent of chopping down trees.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 11:09 am, October 12, 2011
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