Lax Standards in Permits Issued
Means East Hills Tree Laws
Often Fail to Preserve Trees

   East Hills, NY, 8-20-13 -- A review of tree permits issued from March through early July 2013 shows that residents are receiving permission to destroy trees for many highly debatable reasons -- or no stated reasons at all!

   Meanwhile a provision of the tree law requiring replacement (however meager) of every tree removed except in special circumstances has typically been ignored in many respects.

   See actual permits and point-by-point analysis below.

   The result is that our trees -- the foundation of East Hills' living ecology -- are being inexorably destroyed on a wholesale basis, and local wildlife are left without adequate homes and food sources, surface heat increases due to loss of shade, oxygen production is decreased, and carbon dioxide sequestration and mitigation is reduced when we can least afford it.

   Instead of contributing to a better planet, East Hills, "the Champion Community," is helping to destroy it.

   In addition to the trees removed under 'instant-permits' from the tree warden, Building Inspector Barry Lamb, 'adjudicated-permits' issued by the Architectural Review Board (ARB) frequently allow builders to remove multiple if not nearly every tree on the site of rebuilt homes -- often due to the excessive sizes permitted and capricious driveway relocations, among other reasons.

   Village officials impeded access to the tree permit records, delaying responses to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests for weeks and dragging out the inspection of dozens of separate permit folders by providing them only one-by-one, and requiring staff to repeatedly walk into a back room to retrieve each individual file separately. As a result, inspection of over 100 files took about five hours and multiple tedious visits.

   During the four-month period analyzed, the combined tree warden 'instant permits' and ARB 'adjudicated-permits' allowed the removal of about 60 mature trees per month, or about 800 per year. But on many properties large proportions of the trees were removed.

   Not all trees removed could be proven to be be 'healthy', but in almost no instance was a certified arborist involved in legally determining a tree's health; the uncertified tree warden often used unscientific, undefined, and highly subjective vernacular terminology like "tree is in decline" or "tree is in fair condition" with no further detail or filed photographic evidence; and in no case of the 'instant-permits' was the Village's own "independent" certified arborist utilized. For those reasons it is impossible to verify the reliability of the tree warden's assertions. But the over-accommodation strongly suggested by many permit files inevitably brings the warden's recorded "judgement" into question.

   We will urge the Village Board to address these issues at its next meeting, and we urge residents concerned for the environment to appear at the next Village meeting August 26, 2013 at 8 PM at Village Hall to express your support for stronger environmental protections. Thank you.


  • 1 -- Trees have no specific or substantiated problems documented but the homeowner is "concerned for safety" according to the Building Inspection Report

  • 26 Old Brick Road (click image to enlarge) SIX healthy mature trees are destroyed, the bulk of the trees on the property, because "homeowner is concerned for safety." The trees were of diameters from 14.5 to 10 inches, according to a calculation based on the owner's apparently erroneous (circumference-based) application.

  • 10 Glen Cove Road (click image to enlarge) A Cedar and Spruce were allowed to be cut down: "both trees are live but the homeowner is concerned for safety."

  • 410 Chestnut Drive (click image to enlarge) A Locust tree was to be cut down: "one tree is live but is on hillside and leans toward house. Homeowner is concerned about safety."

  • 22 Village Road (click image to enlarge) "no structural defects...but owner is concerned about safety."

  • 2 -- Tree(s) is (are) allowed to be removed for no substantiated reason

  • 17 Canterbury Lane (click image to enlarge) The report states: “Observed Blue Spruce in rear yard. Tree is live. OK to remove."

  • 50 Georgian Court (click image to enlarge) Report states: "Blue Spruce is live. Two smaller evergreens are stunted and unbalanced...OK to remove three trees." Further refuting any real reason for the removal, the permit application says only: "Remove big evergreen center front yard," as the reason for removal.

  • 14 Falcon Road (click image to enlarge). The report says "...two trees are live in fair condition. OK to removed four trees."

  • 3 -- The homeowner only asserts tree/s is/are "dangerous" on application but the tree warden approves removal based on some "legitimate project" that suspiciously pops up on the inspection report -- or the project simply appears dubiously 'coincidental'

  • 5 Estates Drive (click image to enlarge) The application says the trees -- including a massive 42" white pine -- are "overgrown" or on a hillside or raise "concerns about falling"," but the inspection report states "all trees are live but are being removed as part landscaping project."

  • 125 Redwood Drive (click image to enlarge) The permit applications application 1 and application 2 claims the 24" and 34" oak trees are "close to electric lines and signs of rotting", but the inspection report does not substantiate those issues. Instead it ignores them and gives permission because "both trees are live but in the way of a proposed retaining wall."

  • 7 Vanad Drive (click image to enlarge) The application says the homeowner has a "fear of falling on house + drainage". The inspection report says "roots are in are way of a drainage project and resident is concerned for safety."

  • (This type of questionable issue also arose before the ARB for 110 Ash Drive, where 9 thriving trees were removed -- over the strong verbal and written objections of this writer -- as the homeowner told the ARB how frightened she was of large trees in general, adamantly refusing to replace them, while a retaining wall of questionable 'necessity' and no documented need was used by the ARB members as a basis for granting a permit to destroy a whole healthy stand of trees!)

  • 4 -- Trees are removed for frivolous reasons

  • 75 Flamingo Drive (click image to enlarge) A Hickory and a Red Maple were allowed to be removed; no size of the trees was stated in the application; the only information in the inspection report: "both trees are live but are in the way of patio construction."

  • 20 Westwood Circle (click image to enlarge) In this case a 12-inch-thick Hemlock tree -- probably 30 years old -- was allowed to be removed, without replacement, because "Hemlock is too close to house and has damaged gutter," according to the inspection report.

  • 5 -- Trees are removed and not replaced, or not replaced one-to-one despite the lack of a stated determination that a replacement is not feasible

  • 111 Village Road (click image to enlarge) 14 trees are removed, including 12 "evergreens" and 2 Norway Maples, but no canopy trees are replaced, only 5 "screening" plantings.

  • 140 Ash Drive: Three black locusts (not further detailed) are removed; no replacements are ordered.

  • 155 Redwood Drive (click image to enlarge) Two pine trees are removed; none are replaced.

  • 150 Birch Drive (click image to enlarge) Five trees, ranging in size from 13 to 26 inches are to be removed; only two trees of 3 inch diameter are replaced.

  • 6 -- Apparent violations are not enforced, according to the information in the file

  • 195 Chestnut Drive (click image to enlarge) The report states "job was stopped...evidence of other removals in rear yard" but aside from requiring four 3" thick replacement trees, there is no record of an enforcement action (or $1000 per tree fines) under the tree law.

  • 54 Overlook Terrace (click image to enlarge) The report gives no indication that any enforcement action was taken.

  • The foregoing examples are only a sampling of what was found in our inspection of the permits. They are meant only to illustrate the problem. We will be writing Mayor Michael Koblenz with the findings and urging the Village to improve its practices at the next Village Board meeting scheduled for August 26, 2013.

-- (c) Richard Brummel (516) 669-1741 8/20/13