SCHENECTADY — The city is on the hook for damages after trees on city-owned property fell and crushed a homeowner’s garage in the Woodlawn neighborhood.
The City Council voted on Monday to approve a claim for $17,500 after trees on the Schenectady Municipal Golf Course crushed the structure at 2925 Consaul Road in 2017.
The homeowner had “complained on numerous occasions” to city personnel about trees, one dead, presenting a hazard to his property, and warned officials they would fall if the city didn’t cut them down, according to claims documents.
Robert Milliman contacted City Council President Ed Kosiur to report the trees were in “imminent danger” of falling.
Kosiur assured him that his concerns were relayed to the city Parks Department and the Mayor’s Office.
City staff came and photographed the trees multiple times, which ultimately fell on Nov. 17, 2017.
“The city had actual and constructive notice that trees on the city’s property were falling and about to fall on Milliman’s garage, yet took no action,” according to the homeowner's claim.
Claims Committee Chairman Vince Riggi said the city couldn’t deny the claim because the trees had been previously reported as a problem.
Riggi said the city should explore the feasibility of launching a program to remove dead trees from city-owned property before the same thing happens again.
“In this case, the city is pretty liable,” Riggi said, adding he often fields complaints about dead trees from constituents.
He said he mentioned the issue to the Parks Department, who told him they didn’t have the resources to address all of the dead trees dotted throughout the city.
“I think it’s incumbent to address these trees,” Riggi said. “I think we have to get a jump on it.”
Commissioner of General Services Paul LaFond wasn't available for comment on Tuesday to discuss the city’s forestry practices and policies.
Mayor Gary McCarthy called the situation “unfortunate," but said the city tries to clear away dead trees as best they can with limited resources.
City Council voted to contract out forestry services, including pruning and removal, to an outside firm because of staffing shortages, he said.
Riggi said he understands tree removal can be costly and money is tight, but the trees also present a public safety issue.
“We should have at least some plan in place,” he said. “Many trees in the city have reached their lifespan.”
Dead trees also drew the ire of another city resident, Ed Varno, at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Varno said dead locust trees on the city-owned Hillhurst Park, which has fallen into disrepair, are leaning into back yards on Campbell Avenue.
“If one of those trees comes down on my property or hurts someone on my property, then I’m going to hold them responsible,” Varno said.