A repaving project underway in Plainview is bringing back bad memories for advocates who say the effort unnecessarily targets trees along the roadway.
The Manetto Hill Road project, which runs from the Northern State Parkway to Old Country Road, will smooth out the notoriously pot-marked stretch and will also include concrete work to make sidewalks and curb ramps wider to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is this element of the project that has some up in arms, as it means the removal of 48 oak trees—out of 300—lining Manetto Hill Road.
Open Nassau, a Facebook group that says it is “dedicated to shining a light on the inequities in Nassau County government,” said the project sounds eerily similar to one that happened along South Oyster Bay Road in 2014, which saw the removal of large swaths of seemingly healthy trees.
“This is precisely how the visual devastation, environmental exploit, public safety disaster, and public health nightmare began with S. Oyster Bay Road during September 2014. Every single red flag appearing in synchronized fashion,” group member Tanya Lukasik stated on Open Nassau on Sept. 16, in a post that went on to say that Legislator Arnold Drucker’s door-to-door campaign to tell residents about the project is nothing more than an effort by the county to protect itself from legal trouble.
However, Legislator Arnold Drucker said Open Nassau’s view of the project and its characterization of him is wrongheaded.
“My goal [going door-to-door] was to get this out in the open. I didn’t want residents coming home from work one day to see their tree was gone,” said Drucker. “This is not some vicious thing where I’m in cahoots with the county taking down everyone’s trees.”
Drucker said the county’s Department of Public Works (DPW) identified 48 specific trees that present a clear public safety hazard, as the roots from these 50-year old trees have forced sidewalks to be raised and curbs to be pushed out into Manetto Hill Road. Drucker went on to say that the project is federally funded and therefore must be in compliance with the ADA.
As such, specific trees were flagged as being hazardous to public safety. A report by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s office stated that the Manetto Hill Road project is part of phase 43, which includes six roads in total to be repaved. The cost of the Manetto Hill repaving is $856,363, with the total cost with the five other roads coming to $8,912,513.
“This is not going to be like South Oyster Bay Road, which was before my time in office,” he said. “In that project, they took down every tree for three miles and people went crazy and filed lawsuits. My goal is to let residents know that with this project, that is not the case. I went door-to-door to the affected households with maps and photos to show exactly what was going to happen. We told them that each tree taken down will be replaced by two smaller trees with roots that grow down instead of out. Everyone I spoke to was very happy about it. Mainly because the road has been in such horrible condition for a long time.”
Drucker said that in an effort to take everyone’s concerns into consideration, he has contacted the DPW to reevaluate the 48 trees and see if any of them can be saved.
“I want to preserve as much as possible,” said Drucker, adding that he would be open to holding a town forum to discuss specifics of the project with the community.
“Some people are getting the wrong impression,” said Drucker. “We are not trying to change the neighborhood for sinister reasons.”
In a statement provided to the Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald by the county executive’s press secretary Karen Contino, the county contends that “the safety and well-being of Nassau’s residents—motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists is a top priority and for the repaving to be done correctly, trees along the road will be need be removed. We understand the resident’s concerns and have taken them into consideration as we plan this important infrastructure improvement project.”