In Irvington…, Chainsaws Cut Deep

Power companies across the United States have been criticized for what consumers see as extended periods of time without electricity after major storms. Downed trees caused by wind, heavy rains or icing wreak havoc with power lines that thread through their branches and limbs. On the one hand consumers have become accustomed to high levels of uninterrupted service. On the other, power companies feel the heat, figuratively speaking, to ensure that service.


Bulls-eye! On Dows Lane approximately twenty five vertical feet of branches were cut off of a mature spruce around two power lines visible at the the lower left of the photo.

In Irvington, recent tree pruning efforts have outraged a number of residents.

The following is an excerpt from Nicholas and Heidi Leone who live on Dows Lane. The letter was addressed to Mayor Siegel and the Board of Trustees. “On October 22 something happened on our property that has given us all great cause for alarm, and I believe that someone in this community had better provide some clarification to Con Ed about what their tree-trimming sub-contractor is allowed to do on private property in the Rivertowns! Three men and a bucket truck came onto our property with no prior communication to or authorization from us, and proceeded to cut off more than 25 feet of branches on one side of what had been a magnificent and healthy 300-year old spruce tree on an historic property in Irvington for the purpose of clearing “authorized space” around a power line. What a nightmare, to look at the enormous arms of our tree all over the ground; I was furious, standing there in my robe and dripping wet from tears and the shower…After I yelled “Stop it!,” they did, but the damage was already done. One of the men apologized and had great sympathy for the way that the tree had been slaughtered. He called his supervisor who told him that even though they were planning to cut a lot more trees going up my neighbor’s driveway, they should leave right away. The guy on our property explained to me that it wasn’t their job to notify anyone, but he had no paperwork or evidence that anyone was notified or that there were any particular trees on his agenda!” 

On November 2, a number of residents met with Con Edison on Broadway where large sycamores were slated for pruning. Irvington’s Tree Commission Chairperson, Mark Gilliland, along with Mayor Siegel and over fifty people, voiced their concerns. Each tree was examined in detail according to Mr. Gilliland, and according to him there was limited pruning of dead wood and suckers necessary for the protection of the electrical wires. A senior Con Ed arborist was in attendance. He was seen as being very helpful to the group, which shared their concern about any over-pruning of the sycamores.

Going forward, Irvington residents need to know that further pruning of trees has been slated throughout the Village. In an email Gilliland stated, “The Village has obtained the following tentative schedule for tree trimming work to be done so that homeowners can anticipate work that may be done in their neighborhood. In the event Villagers encounter routine problems with the work of local Con Ed crews they can reach Con Ed at or 1-800-752-6633. In the event of an emergency, please contact our DPW Superintendent Greg Nilsson at 469-6267 who will be able to contact Con Ed management, crews and arborists.” For the week ending November 21, trees will be pruned on Broadway, N. Dearman Street, Jaffray Court, Home Place, Grinnell Street and South Cottenet Street. Residents are also asked to be aware of orange tags hung on their front doors that detail pruning activities in their area. A sample copy of the tag is exhibited here.

In Irvington and other neighboring communities the symmetry of the trees lost in pruning can’t be restored. That is most unfortunate to those who see erratically shaped greenery where a harmonious look once prevailed. Utility companies provide more than electricity, —they serve a common good that should include the preservation of beauty in nature.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento