As of June 17, if a tree has a sign posted saying that it is to be removed by the Town of North Hempstead, a resident has five business days to phone 311 to object. The affected Town of North Hempstead Councilman and the Supervisor then would be notified. Either of them may request an independent arborist be retained to inspect the tree and make recommendations as to whether the tree must be removed or can be safely left as is, or whether other precautionary steps can be taken that will allow the tree to remain. No action to remove the tree would be taken until a report is made to town officials. Also included in the new policy is that the town shall maintain a list of independent arborists. However, a tree may be removed without public notice if the public health, welfare or safety is immediately endangered.
Councilman Fred Pollack had been trying for several years to pass such a policy but the destruction of five mature pin oaks on Main Street in front of Knowles Funeral Home on Monday June 2 motivated aggrieved residents to demand a tree protection policy immediately. On Saturday morning, June 14, Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington organized a walk from the train station, past Knowles Funeral Home and a few of the remaining tree stumps, to Blumenfeld Family Park. In all, 11 healthy mature trees were destroyed in these areas in the past few years. Supervisor Kaiman and Councilman Pollack met with close to 100 residents in the park to answer questions and talk about the proposed tree policy. Councilman Pollack said that he received over 60 emails urging the policy be approved.
The trees were removed because the sidewalk buckled. Knowles Funeral Home wanted them gone. Supervisor Kaiman explained that the town was facing a lawsuit over the dangerous condition of the sidewalk. Schreiber High School student Eliana Theodorou said she rode her bicycle and walked every day to school for six years on that sidewalk and never had a problem. Now when she goes to school the hot sun beats down on her unpleasantly on that block, she said.
Many residents felt that other options should have been considered because mature trees are essential to preserving the bucolic look of the town. Laura Johnson said, "Mature street trees not only provide shade and visual interest along a paved corridor, they also provide a link to the past and help to unify the diverse lots and buildings along Main Street. In addition to these concerns, a recent NY Times article indicated that the presence of mature street trees have a positive effect (up to 10 percent) on property values. These five trees were particularly important as they directly mitigated an unsightly parking lot along Main Street and shaded pedestrians as they waited for the light at a busy intersection in the middle of town. The benefits these trees provided are now lost and will take decades to replace."
After the meeting with Kaiman and Pollack, many residents said they felt satisfied that such wanton destruction of town trees wouldn't happen again. Sally Olds said, "I was happy that both Supervisor Kaiman and Councilman Pollack seemed cognizant of the wrong that had been done and would take action to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. At a time when trees are being planted around the globe to cut down carbon emissions, it seems criminal to destroy any for no good reason. In addition, I was outraged to think that the Town Highway Department had so little respect for our community to have perpetrated this destruction without giving the community the opportunity to respond." At the town board meeting on June 17, after the policy was unanimously passed, Kaiman apologized for the loss of the trees.