In anticipation of the fall hurricane season, PSEG Long Island has been trimming trees in the village since July 10 to ward off potential power failures caused by trees knocking down power lines.
But the trim work, some residents say, is unnecessarily aggressive and is mutilating the trees. “It’s a massacre,” said Neil Gilmartin, an area resident for more than 50 years. “It’s anything but tree trimming. They are having a great time destroying what took 50-60 years to grow.”
Village Mayor Patti Ann McDonald said that the work is a necessary job. “Eventually the trees will grow in,” said McDonald. “Yes it looks bad now, but it will get better.” McDonald points to the tree-trimming job done in 2015 on the trees lining Franklin Avenue. Many residents at the time complained that those cuts were too severe and ruined the canopy. This year, however, the canopy grew back and, for the most part, is avoiding the power lines.
Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman for PSEG Long Island, which contracts its tree-trimming to Asplundh, ARS, Harder and IPC, said the utility is committed to the health and beauty of the trees. “We have to have this cohabitation between the healthy and beauty of the trees, the delivery of safe, reliable and dependable power and customer satisfaction,” Weir said. “We are empathetic to customers, but we do have certified arborists on staff to ensure the health and welfare of the trees.”
Weir also added that the utility has the right to trim the trees without notifying its customers. “But that’s not our modus operandi,” he added.
In 2014, PSEG launched a revised tree-trimming program that required all branches to be cleared eight feet on either side of a primary conductor, 12 feet above it and 10 feet below. Branches near a secondary conductor must be cut back to give that conductor three feet of clearance.
Two to three days before pruning begins, customers are notified that work will begin on their block, Weir said. If any customer expresses concern, the crews will make every effort to address them.
But that was not the situation when Gilmartin spoke with PSEG contractors at the end of July.
“They weren’t the least bit interested in what any resident had to say,” Gilmartin recalled. “They said, ‘we have a contract. We’re going to do our job.’”
Gilmartin added that the workers need a more thoughtful approach to the effort. “There are ways to trim the trees around the wires that have been done for years. It takes time and effort. You don’t just take everything off the top.”
McDonald said a representative from PSEG would be at the September village board meetings to address residents’ concerns.