EGG HARBOR CITY — The city is repaving the 500 block of Cincinnati Avenue and replacing sidewalks, but at the expense of about 30 mature street trees.
Some residents are angry that all of the trees in the 10-foot-wide planting strip along the road are being removed, and don’t believe it is necessary.
Others are upset that the city decided to start tree removal today, rather than wait until after school ends June 18, as some officials had said they would. The street is used by many young children on the way to the Charles L. Spragg Elementary School.
“I’m livid about it. It’s ridiculous to take all of the trees,” said Chrissy Cavileer, of 550 Cincinnati. “Don’t spend the money. We want our trees.”
She said many are at least 100 years old.
City officials have said the tree roots are lifting sidewalks and damaging the road surface. The city is paying Schairer’s Tree Service $23,900 to remove them all in preparation for the new road, curbing and sidewalks.
Cavileer said two enormous shade trees in front of her home help lower her air-conditioning bills in summer.
“It will end up costing the residents more (for air conditioning),” Cavileer said. Her sidewalk showed no sign of damage.
Dolores Schorr and Martin Vergata spent about $500 on two Japanese zelkova trees for the planting strip in front of their home at 538 Cincinnati a few years ago. Even their relatively small trees, selected for their smaller size, must be removed, Schorr said.
She said City Engineer Ryan A. McGowan, of Reminton, Vernick & Walberg Engineers in Pleasantville, told her the city would dig them out and replant them elsewhere on the property. But there is no open space in their small yard, she said.
“We’ve been living here since 2005, and one of the things we wanted when we purchased the home was definitely a tree-lined street,” Schorr said. “We’re not just concerned about our trees, but all the trees down the street. Do they really have to go?”
She said her sidewalk is not damaged, nor is most of the sidewalk on the street.
“We complained about the road and the potholes. We thought they would just repave that,” Schorr said. “The sidewalks are not that bad.”
New Jersey Tree Foundation Director Lisa Simms said 10-foot planting strips are exceptionally large, and should accommodate any large tree without risk of damage to streets, curbs or sidewalks. Where an extremely large tree lifts sidewalks, she said many communities run the walks around the tree.
“This is on the ridiculous side,” she said of the mass tree removal.
Neighbor Clarke Burns, at 534 Cincinnati, said the issue doesn’t affect him.
“I’m already in the sun,” he said. There are no trees in front of his house.
“If they’re going to redo it, redo it right, so we won’t have to put in new sidewalks in 20 years,” Burns said
On the 100 block of Boston Avenue, all of the street trees in the planting strip already are gone. It, too, has gotten all new curbing, sidewalks and is getting a new road surface.
Many Boston Avenue residents say they miss the trees but have been convinced it’s best not to have them near the sidewalks. The planting strip there is to 4 feet to 6 feet wide.
Richard Husta built his home at 127 Boston in 1954, he said.
“I have mixed feelings. Trees are nice, but hey, the wheels of progress go on,” he said.
He has been told he cannot replant any trees in the planting strip, and any tree he puts in his yard must be at least 6 feet from the sidewalk edge, he said.
“Right now I’m getting acclimated (to what the street looks like),” Husta said. “At first I said, ‘What happened to the street? It looks like any other major highway. Before it was hung over with trees.”
The trees, including two huge swamp maples in front of his house, were removed about five months ago, he said.
Day-care provider Cindy Dagrosa, who has run The Kids Place for 30 years at 546 Cincinnati, said she considers removal of the trees a necessary evil. Two enormous tulip poplars in the 10-foot wide planting strip in front of her building are about 50 feet tall and sometimes lose branches.
She said she has replaced two windshields because of falling limbs, and worries a child will be hit by one.
The trees have not been properly maintained by the city for decades, she said, so they should be removed.
But, she said, the city should wait until school ends to remove them, as she had been told it would.
Friday, 500 block residents received a letter from McGowan, saying work will start today and take about a week to finish.
“The schools are out for the summer on Tuesday, June 18. The street hasn’t been touched in over 30 years, and they can’t wait for a week?” she said. “This will be a major traffic nightmare and cause an unnecessary danger to the kids walking to school.”
Dagrosa said she has walked kids to and from the school for 30 years. Cars speed through the neighborhood, and kids ride bikes and walk unsupervised, she said.
McGowan’s letter tells residents not to park on the street for the week, and to use rear entrances and exits to their homes.
Mayor Lisa Jiampetti, Council President Ed Dennis and McGowan did not respond to phone calls for comment on the issue.
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