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Homeowners: ‘Beautiful’ blocks now ‘barren,' — Rockville Centre village roadway program fixes streets, but temporarily removes dozens of trees

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“Rockville Centre has always been a beautiful town to call home,” said resident Rich Sundermier, who has lived on Locust Avenue for more than 40 years. But after the village removed a majority of trees from the street while doing road repairs, he added, “My street now looks like my former block in Queens.”

Due to low ratings by Cornell University’s Local Roads Program, the village’s engineering department has teamed up with National Grid to fix infrastructure underneath a number of streets in Rockville Centre, and the process involves removing trees.

While some were found to be diseased by the Rockville Centre Conservancy last year, others will be removed if impacted by excavation or if found to be dangerous to the new roadways.

Last year, the village worked on 2.57 miles of roadway. This year, the 2018 Roadway Program involved South Village Avenue, from Riverside Drive to Merrick Road; Locust Avenue, from Hempstead Avenue to North Forest Avenue; Major Court, from Lincoln Avenue to the dead end of the street; and Bleinheim Court, which covers nearly a mile.

Leon Court, Amherst Court, Wilson Lane, Meehan Lane, Rockaway Avenue, Long Beach Road in between Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway, Yale Place, Bleinheim Court, Morris Avenue, South Village Avenue and Locust Avenue are all still under construction at the moment.

“The block looks horrible,” Sundermier said of Locust, which is now depleted of most its trees. “The way my block looks is depressing.”

He added he has “no bone to pick” with the village, because he understands why the roadwork is being done. But he wondered how his street — now a “combination of dirt, gravel and pebbles” — would prosper with just the one tree on his side, which he said he planted himself last fall.

Cathy Iasello, another homeowner on Locust, said she was required to sign a waiver allowing the village to remove the tree in front of her house, which was found to be diseased, or she would be responsible for it in the future. She added that she was not informed whether or not the tree would be replaced.

“If they remove the trees, they should plant new trees,” Isaello added. “The trees were beautiful. Now the whole place is barren. …Trees make a beautiful block.”

Another resident of Locust, Dale Fessler, weighed in, saying he understands “both sides” of the story. “The trees were beautiful, but I do value a brand new street,” he said. Enhancements to the roads include curbs, gutters and aprons, lighting, new storm drainage and pavement resurfacing.

Construction on all roads should be complete by mid-December, according to village spokeswoman Julie Scully. While 87 trees were removed so far, 91 trees were ordered, 46 of which by the village to replace ones removed due to roadwork and 45 by residents, one of which will be planted by the homeowner, she said. The village received $15,650 for the 45 additional trees ordered by residents, and the funds for the 46 replacements comes out of the Roadway Program’s budget.

While homeowners were given the choice to have their trees replaced at no cost to them, not all residents choose to replant the trees, Scully added. Also, the village plans to order 10 to 15 trees for the downtown area to replace dead trees.

“Trees and green spaces are an important part of Rockville Centre,” Mayor Francis Murray said. He mentioned the village’s recognition as a “Tree City USA” by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Lands and Forests for the past three decades, adding, “The removal of a tree in the village is not taken lightly and is only done as a last resort.”