Why did it take a week to remove a fallen tree from this Queens home?

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Friday, August 21, 2020
Tree felled by Isaias stuck on NYC home for a week
7 On Your Side helps out a family whose home was torn open by a huge tree that came down during Tropical Storm Isaias.

COLLEGE POINT, Queens (WABC) -- Tropical Storm Isaias carved a path of destruction across the New York area, downing trees, knocking out power and damaging homes across the Tri-State.

A huge tree came down in College Point, tearing open the roof of a family's home. A week later, both the tree and the hole were still there. So they turned to 7 On Your Side for help.

"I'm very frustrated," Tracy Koutsoulidakis said. "We have found at least three holes in the roof."

The family was supposed to be in Greece, but COVID rules kept them at their home in Queens the night.

"They were very frightened and shook," she said. "They thought there was an earthquake or something."

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The wires were fixed but the fallen tree was left on the vehicle.

She said she repeatedly contacted the fire department, the parks department and 311, but six days later, they could still see daylight through the roof.

"We really depend on the public to tell us where trees are damaged, what the nature of the damage is, so we can get out there quickly," Parks Department First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh said.

After we called the parks department, it pulled the service requests. They said Koutsoulidakis called three times on August 4 and August 5, but the tickets for 128th Street had not been prioritized because it only listed damaged tree, fallen tree and tree uprooted -- and nothing about the tree leaning or the dangerous exposed roof hole.

"We received 21,000 in 24 hours," Kavanagh said. "In 72 hours, more complaints than the city gets in four months. Superstorm Sandy had 26,000."

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Kavanaugh said every single community board reported damage in Isaias' wake and stressed the need for detailed damage reports.

The main questions are:

1. Are wires are involved?

2. Is a tree blocking a street or preventing emergency response?

3. Is tree an "active failure"?

"Meaning is it split either vertically or horizontally uprooted or leaning where it can damage property or cause an injury, God forbid," Kavanagh said.

Once we explained the leaning, the split, and the ceiling hole, the city sent out a crane that lifted the tree off the roof.

The big takeway is to keep records. The Koutsoulidakis family kept great records, and she has a service request from 2003 asking for that tree to be pruned.

If you see damage, report it to 311 and don't assume someone else is doing it. And if power lines are involved, call 911 right away.


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