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Questions Raised About County Tree Cutting In Nassau Preserves

More than 100 live trees have been cut in Glen Cove preserves

During the recent hurricane, tree-laden preserves have suffered damage. The trees felled by the natural disaster, however, are insignificant compared with the calculated cutting that has since taken place.

A month after Superstorm Sandy, Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton said she was alarmed to hear that trimming crews were taking chainsaws to trees in two Nassau County preserves located in Glen Cove – Welwyn and Garvies Point.  

The legislator was contacted by concerned residents who frequent both preserves, as well as environmental groups like the Audubon Society and the Friends of Garvies Point.

 

DeRiggi-Whitton went out to meet concerned people at both county preserves. Starting at Welwyn, the legislator had hikers walk her through the trails, showing many cut trees. She then went to Garvies, where members of the Friends of Garvies showed her the same kind of damage and told her that the crews did not seem to be properly monitored and had no knowledge of trees. 

“Healthy trees, trees fallen adjacent to trails were removed. Stumps were being dug out, leaving bomb craters,” said Jennifer Wilson-Pines, president of the North Shore Audubon Society. 

She said the county has hired crews from out of state to cut, section up, and remove all “dangerous” trees; “dangerous” is interpreted to mean anything leaning at a 15-degree angle.

Legislator DeRiggi-Whitton called for a hold on the projects and demanded information from several involved managers within the Nassau County government. She was told that each tree crew was led by an arborist who was selecting dead trees that were a potential danger to people. She was also told that each crew was following a careful plan within the preserve. However, testimony from many people on the ground at both Glen Cove locations suggested that there was not correct supervision and crews seemed to be carelessly damaging precious preserve area without a clear purpose. They said that many of the trees cut were alive and posed no danger.

One Friend of Garvies member told the Record Pilot the crews seemed to be on a mission to cut a lot of trees, and were even taking pictures of the trees that were cut, speculating that they may be offered monetary incentives for taking down trees. Garvies may have been saved from the destruction due to a worker’s quick action. An old tree that had not been struck by the hurricane was the first tree cut down.

Members of the Audubon Society and Friends of Garvies raised concerns that the crews did not know the difference between a park and a preserve. At the preserve, the trails are used to lead the public, but the decaying trees are used as teaching points. Dead or rotting trees are important to wildlife, especially birds that might use the stumps for nesting.

“Owls nest in dead trees and woodpeckers and other birds use these dead trees for many purposes, said Peggy Maslow, vice president of the North Shore Audubon Society.  “The workers are getting money for doing totally unnecessary work that is detrimental to wildlife and to the environment.” 

“It is evident that the county and park administrations do not know the difference between parks and preserves,” said Bruce Piel, chairman of the Park Advocacy and Recreation Council of Nassau. “A park is a green space specifically designed for human recreation, i.e. picnics, sports, biking, swimming, etc. Removing damaged or dangerous trees from public parks is not only acceptable but also prudent.

“Preserves, however, are “forever wild” green spaces that allow our residents to see nature as it was before the population explosion that filled most of the space on Long Island. Natural events, even Hurricane Sandy, are part of the natural process that defines our forests. Trees felled by the storm still provide protection and food to the wildlife that lives there. Over time downed trees will decay and become a part of the forest floor, providing nutrients to new saplings. This process should not be tampered with except in two circumstances: emergency vehicle access roads and walking or hiking trails.”

At Garvies, the legislator got to meet with a landscape architect in charge as well as an arborist. They went over the sophisticated process the county is supposed to follow, using iPads to identify and track trees that truly need to come down for safety reasons. 

“I believe that this process was not originally used in either of Nassau’s preserves in Glen Cove,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “It is terrible that while tree limbs are still hanging on wires right out on Glen Cove Road, crews were being set loose in protected natural areas and doing permanent damage.” 

At the Nassau County Legislature’s committee sessions on Monday, Dec. 3, Legislator DeRiggi-Whitton publicly raised her concern about this process. A Parks and Recreation head explained it away by saying that the wrong crew was sent into Welwyn for several days and was ultimately removed. The legislator said she was saddened to learn that the crews were removed after cutting down 143 trees.   

However, Wilson-Pines said the county ordered Garvies Museum to be closed at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, and that on Wednesday, Dec. 5, Garvies employees arrived to find a new lock on the gate, while behind the locked gates, crews were cutting. Nine school programs scheduled for Wednesday were canceled by the parks department, claiming the preserve was “ too dangerous” for the public.

Kathryne Natale, who is on the board of the Audubon Society, said, “I was distressed to learn, after talking to a county supervisor, that at least one tree holding up a bluff was cut.” 

Natale said she was told that the workers were paid by the county per tree, and the county would be reimbursed by FEMA.

“If they are paid by tree, why wouldn’t they be overzealous?” 


News

In order to meet the necessary budget requirements, the Glen Cove School District will reduce school staff members, starting in the 2014-15 school year. One administrative staff member and nine instructional staff members will be let go, according to Superintendent

Maria Rianna’s report at the Monday night school board meeting. Staff reductions will also be made to teaching assistants, school monitors, substitute teachers and custodial and maintenance workers. The total savings for the district is $1,227,669.

 

As of March 31, revenues for the district total $79,281,428. The revenues include the tax levy ($64,780,719),  P.I.L.O.T.s ($1,908,060), tax on consumer utility bills ($1,250,000)n use of reserves ($1,250,000), State Aid ($8,751,799), all other revenues ($635,850) and appropriation of unassigned fund balance ($750,000).

 

The total appropriations for the district are $80,509,097 and revenues are $79,281,428 with a budget gap of $1,227,669.

 It has been five years since a particularly heavy rainfall closed all the beaches in Glen Cove including Crescent Beach. As per Nassau County Department of Health standards, beaches are ordered closed after heavy rainfall because of storm water runoff that adversely affects bacteria levels at local beaches. Typically, bacteria levels subside within a day or so, allowing for the beaches to be reopened. This was not the way it went with one popular beach after the June 2009 rain storm.

 

“Unfortunately, this was not the case with Crescent Beach,” said Glen Cove Parks & Recreation Director, Darcy Belyea, at last Wednesday night’s public forum at Glen Cove City Hall. “Elevated levels of microbiological contamination continued to be found in the bathing water months after the heavy rain and recent samples show they are still elevated today.”

 

Belyea was one of a number of panelists at the public forum, which included Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello, City Attorney Charles McQuair, Director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee Eric Swenson and representatives from the Nassau County Department of Health. 


Sports

 

Glen Cove High School players, from left, Tajah Garner, Dejon Taylor, Manny Sican, and Ralik Jackson, after the Long Island Colts u18’s team vs. St. Anthony’s at Robert Finley Middle School last week. Touchdown ‘tries’ by Garner, Taylor and Sican.


The third- and fourth-grade Knights took to the road last weekend as they faced off against Jericho early Sunday morning, April 6.  Jericho’s teamwork and hustle brought down the Knights by a final score of 5 – 0.  The early game may have been a factor as the boys started to play better and more like a team as the game went on.  Once again, goalie Tyler Shea played outstanding in goal and was relieved by Christian Maiorano, who did just as well in the second half.  Andrew Guster played solid defense in the loss.


Calendar

Eggstravaganza - April 16

Live Music - April 16

Community Easter Egg Hunt - April 19


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