The trees cleared on Searingtown and Shelter Rock Roads after Hurricane Sandy had to come down for safety reasons, according to a review released by Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos. Same holds true for the trees at the 204-acre Welwyn Preserve.
Allegations that contractors removed the trees unnecessarily were unfounded, he said.
Maragos reviewed hundreds of documents from the Department of Public Works, and found that the removed trees either were damaged by Sandy or the snowstorm that followed, or were diseased before Sandy.
“Following the devastation caused by Sandy the County’s top priority was the safety of our residents and the return to normalcy for Nassau,” Maragos said, in a release.
“Unfortunately, during this process hundreds of trees had to be removed and residents wanted to know why,” he added. “My field audit team found that every tree removed was done for the safety of our residents.”
The Bradford Pear trees that lined Searingtown and Shelter Rock Roads were no match for Superstorm Sandy, or and the subsequent snowstorm, he added.
Throughout Nassau, nearly 10,000 trees were removed and an additional 21,000 trees had limbs removed. According to the comptroller’s office, it undertook a review beyond a “normal audit” of claims in order to address allegations that tree contractors engaged in excessive or indiscriminate tree removal in the Welwyn Preserve and along Searingtown and Shelter Rock Roads. For this review, auditors interviewed various personnel, reviewed tree removal records, examined DPW procedures and tree photos. They also performed a physical inspection by walking the entire length of Searingtown and Shelter Rock Roads as well as the Welwyn Preserves trail number 1, where the majority of the preserve trees were cut.
Yet not everyone agrees with the reviews findings.
"I would welcome walking around Welwyn with him and showing him where he's wrong," Michael Miller, a frequent visitor to Glen Cove preserve, told Newsday. "They took down trees that I know from my everyday experience would not have fallen."
What the Comptroller’s Auditors Found
Along the entire six mile length of Searingtown and Shelter Rock Roads, the auditors found 300 physical stumps of trees that had been removed and an additional 43 records of trees that were uprooted for a total tree removal count of 343 trees. According to contractor tickets, however, and certified by independent monitors, 323 trees were removed and billed to the county. This leaves a difference of 20 trees that were removed without any records and without billings. The audit team found the 20 tree difference to be likely due to emergency maintenance or performed prior to Sandy.
“Of the total 467 trees billed to the county – 323 at Searingtown and Shelter Rock and 144 at Welwyn – 100 percent were approved by independent monitors and traced to submitted and paid claims by the County,” Maragos said.
“In the Welwyn Preserve, auditors found no evidence of any indiscriminate cutting. In fact many of the tree cuts were observed diseased or insect ridden or blocking paths in this densely wooded area,” he added
The county completed the planting of new trees along Searingtown and Shelter Rock Roads, which according to the comptrollers office, are not as brittle as Bradford Pear trees and are better suited for the streetscape.