Property owners and city disagree about tree ownership on Staten Island street

Three trees off Taylor Street on the North Shore of Staten Island are growing into a controversy.

An abandoned house was recently demolished and the property owner has new plans for the corner lot.

Frank Martarella with thinkDESIGN Architecture is working on the new multi-family, residential building on the property. Zoning regulates the number of off-street parking spaces and the placement of driveways and curbs.

"Based on numerous regulations required for curb-cut locations, we are forced to remove several trees," Martarella said.

They say the permit for tree removal would be $592,000.

"Nobody is against trees. We have been planting within the property, at the street and the curb, for decades. We understand the importance," Martarella said.

Some Staten Island property owners have filed a lawsuit to challenge the NYC Parks Department process.

Attorney Robert Fishler represents some of the owners and developers and calls it a case of property rights.

"This has nothing to do with trees. This has to do with your constitutional rights. The city of New York is asking for money for things they don't own. Almost half of the streets in Staten Island are not owned by the city of New York," he says.

The NYC Parks Department believes it has authority over all trees growing in the public right of-way and on land otherwise under the department's jurisdiction.

"Trees are very valuable in our urban environment and are an important part of our city infrastructure, just like street lights and stop signs. When determining the replacement costs of our trees, we take size, lifespan and overall health of a tree into consideration," a statement emailed to PIX11 News from the department's press office said.

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