But the Parks Department says whoever is found responsible is facing an estimated $350,000 in fines.
“This is a very significant quality-of-life issue for the neighborhood,” said State Senator Tony Avella as he stood in front of the vacant lot with several concerned residents and civic leaders.
Despite several attempts to contact the site architects after first learning of the illegal tree removal, Avella said he has yet to receive an answer.
The news of this recent arborcide comes in the wake of controversy surrounding the neighborhood’s opposition over a recently approved 416-seat primary school on part of the site.
The owners have also filed permits with the city for the construction of a two-family home on the other, plans Avella says should be put on hold during the investigation.
“The community has every right to make sure that the issue of the trees and the fine is resolved before the Department of Buildings issues a permit for any construction at this site,” Avella said. “The city should not allow someone who did so much damage to get a permit and build whatever they want while the fine sits there and is not collected.”
In addition to recouping the lost trees, Susan Seinfeld, district manager at Community Board 11, said the party responsible for the arborcide should also be required to plant additional trees at the site.
“The new owners should have done their due diligence to find out their property line and inquire whether these trees are city-owned,” Seinfeld suggested. “But even if they had been private trees, why cut them down before even submitting plans to the Department of Buildings?”
Henry Euler, first vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said his civic group plans to put pressure on the city until the fines are paid and new trees are planted.
“Trees are so important to our environment. They provide shade, health benefits and absorb water to prevent flooding,” Euler said. “We speak for the members of this community when we call on the city to enforce the laws of arborcide, make the developers pay the necessary fine and replace these trees.”