When local authorities began construction work in one U.S. neighborhood, they soon found that they were barking up the wrong tree. The residents there were incensed, and they decided that they weren’t prepared to just sit back and watch their much-loved greenery get decimated. What they did next, moreover, showed great community spirit.
In the summer of 2017, householders in Mineola, New York, became outraged over the intended fate of large trees lining some of the neighborhood’s residential roads. The situation wasn’t helped, either, when workers arrived at the village’s Foch Boulevard and began eradicating the trees there.
And homeowners were particularly disgruntled about the lack of communication they had received on the matter from local officials. Specifically, some claimed that the mayor, in particular, hadn’t informed them about the work starting – and they were deeply unhappy about it.
What’s more, the trees on Foch Boulevard are an integral part of the neighborhood, according to those who live there. “The trees are an important thing to everyone,” one local, Frank Gunn, told news station CBS New York in July 2017. “I think everyone feels the same way,” he added.
However, the municipality deemed it necessary to chop them down to allow for essential maintenance. In particular, they had to be removed in order to make room for the reconstruction of roads and gutters and to facilitate the replacement of underground pipes.
In the residents’ eyes, however, the trees were something to be cherished, not destroyed. “The tree is the longest-living resident of a community, and that’s what I believe – these trees are part of our community,” Foch Boulevard householder Cathryn Mezzo told CBS New York.
“It makes me feel really sad because these trees have been here a long time,” fellow resident Annette Brady told News 12 Long Island in July 2017. “For them [the trees] just to be killed for no reason at all, except that they were in somebody’s way, is really sad,” she continued.
And Brady added to the news program that some members of the community had even been responsible for planting the trees in the first place. It was perhaps no wonder, then, that many of them felt the same about the mayor’s new project. And they weren’t prepared to stand idly by while the trees were removed.
Furthermore, some members of the community also voiced safety concerns over the removal of the trees. Tree surgeons were planning to eradicate the roots from some of them, thus making them less stable. As a result, several locals were worried that trees might then topple over and crush houses in high winds.
Once Mineola’s mayor Scott Strauss learned of the local community’s outrage, however, he tried to reassure people that the work was not as dramatic as it had first appeared. “Our village values trees and is not removing every tree on the street,” he announced in a letter published online.
He added that only trees that had “completely outgrown and overgrown the three-foot planting area” would be chopped down. He even tried to appease residents by saying that “new, road-friendly trees” would be planted once all the reconstruction work was over.
But the local community was not satisfied with the mayor’s response. One of the things that annoyed residents the most, in fact, was that the letter was published too late. Indeed, it was pointed out that it had only been posted on the Mineola village website after workers had started their business on the boulevard.
By contrast, the village clerk informed CBS New York that the work had actually been publicly announced well in advance. He added that residents were not normally informed individually about such matters unless the authorities required access to their properties. Still, the local community was not prepared to stand for what was going on. And so they decided to band together in a bid to save the remaining trees.
“I just feel that the community wasn’t involved enough, there was no pre-discussion or notice or warning. All of the sudden these big, beautiful trees just started disappearing,” Mezzo told local news outlet Mineola American. So, when the workers next came to chop down some trees, they were stopped in their tracks.
That’s because local residents joined forces to do all that they could to prevent even more trees from being cut down. And they decided to protect the trees in the most ingenious way. By using their own cars as shields, the community managed to form a barrier around them.
But even though they were threatened with fines, members of the Foch Boulevard community remained undeterred. What’s more, the trees meant so much to them that they didn’t even stop at blocking them in. On July 20 residents also staged a protest, complete with placards reading “What The Foch? Save Our Trees!”
Indeed, the locals wanted to make it crystal clear to the mayor just how unhappy they were with what was going on. “It was my only hope. I’m afraid I’m going to leave my house and come home to a stump,” Mezzo told CBS New York. “Sometimes you have to take risks to take a stand,” she added.
Children even joined in with the campaign, standing on the stumps of trees that had already been removed and quoting from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. They also hung their own paintings of trees with sad faces around the neighborhood; other artworks, meanwhile, bore the slogan “Tree Lives Matter.”
And the aim of the day of action was to start an open conversation with the mayor. After all, many residents of Foch Boulevard simply didn’t believe that it was necessary to chop down trees in order to allow for the road maintenance to go ahead.
Unfortunately, though, it seems as if the protest didn’t have the desired effect, as trees were still being cleared the following day. And although Mayor Strauss has promised that new trees will be planted to replace the old ones, it’s clear that the originals will be sorely missed by the residents of Foch Boulevard.