Stony Brook homeowners rally to save their trees

Stony Brook homeowners rally to save their trees

Brookhaven highway dept. says it will take a second look before removal

Mosshill Place is a tree-lined street in the Levitt-built M section of Stony Brook. Photo by Donna Newman

Two weeks ago, homeowners on Mosshill Place in Stony Brook were alarmed to find virtually every tree on their street — mostly sycamores — marked with pink dots. It came as a surprise — and a shock, according to Susan Ackerman, who feels the trees add so much to the neighborhood. She immediately called the office of Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) to inquire about the dots and said she was told they marked trees to be removed prior to road paving.

Ackerman said panic set in for her and her neighbors as they began to discuss the possibility of losing all the trees on the street and the ramifications that would follow.

“We didn’t know where to turn,” Mosshill Place resident Tom Caputo said. “Someone suggested we call News 12. Maybe if we got the story out, we’d get some help. We were surprised. [News 12] was down the next day and they brought Dan Losquadro.”

Ackerman said a paving project several years ago that resurfaced several of the “major” roads in the neighborhood — including Manchester Lane, Millstream Lane, Marwood Place, Millbrook Drive and Malvern Lane — was completed without the removal of any trees. She did not understand why the same process could not be used now.

Trees on Mosshill Place are marked for removal. Photo by Donna Newman
Trees on Mosshill Place are marked for removal. Photo by Donna Newman

For his part, Losquadro said he is just trying to do his job the right way.

“I have an extreme backlog of paving work, more than $100 million,” he said in a phone interview. “With an average annual budget of $15 to $18 million, I need to get the maximum life expectancy out of the roads I am paving. I have to make sure roads are done properly.”

Decades ago, there was no thought given to what species to plant and where to place the trees, Losquadro explained. As a result, the trees are right on the curbs, their roots intertwined with them. The superintendent said the tree removal is going to be a big expense, and he wished he could spend that money on road paving.

On her way to work, Ackerman said, she drove around the M section of the Strathmore Levitt houses in Stony Brook to tally the number of spray-painted dots on trees. By her count nearly 300 trees are tagged. She estimates that approximately 200 homes will lose trees.

In a letter to Losquadro resident Barbara Caputo listed a few of the benefits of trees she feels ought to be considered. Moderating heating and air conditioning costs, enhancement of property values, use by wildlife for food, shelter and nesting, and improving air quality and reducing pollution are among the reasons she listed trees help the community.

Losquadro said he had not planned to contact residents of the M section until he had assessed the situation, but the pink marks were noticed and homeowners are concerned.

In an Aug. 26 letter to affected residents Losquadro wrote, “Despite the markings you have seen, my staff and I are currently re-evaluating which trees must be removed to eliminate road obstructions and which can remain with repairs made to cracked or lifted curbing.” It went on to say that letters to all affected residents would be sent out shortly detailing the new recommendations.

Marian Guralnick is the original owner of a home on Mosshill Place.

“I’ve watched these trees grow for 50 years,” she said in a phone interview. “To lose them now that they form an aesthetically pleasing and beneficial canopy would be an ecological disaster.”

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