UPDATE: Experts Agree Centuries-Old Teaneck Tree Should Be Removed
A centuries old oak tree in Teaneck that residents have long fought to preserve will be chopped down after a tree expert determined the oak presented a "real hazard to people and property," a county official confirmed Friday.
The tree, which is maintained by the county, is set to be removed by Memorial Day, said Jeanne Baratta, chief of staff at the Bergen County Executive's Office. County officials briefed various Teaneck stakeholders on the situation earlier Friday.
"The county did a lot of due diligence on this," Baratta said. "This is a safety issue. The tree has severe decay."
Baratta said the tree is largely hollow, attracting termites and officials are concerned it could come down in a major storm. An initial review suggested the tree was in good condition, but a more thorough follow-up inspection uncovered rotting and described the tree's condition as hazardous.
"This tree, in my professional opinion, must be removed as soon as possible. The tree poses a real hazard to people and property. There is no treatment or method of care that will eliminate the hazard that this tree poses. Removal is the only option," William R. Comery, a certified tree expert hired by the county, wrote in an inspection report obtained by Patch.
"The potential targets because of the location and size of the tree are many, including motorists, pedestrians and young children and staff in the play area under the tree canopy," the report states, also pointing to possible damage to property and utility lines.
Past efforts to chop down the tree have prompted opposition from residents. Supported residents pushed to save the tree and the land was granted a county conservation easement in April 2011, a move that protected the site and put its care under the county parks department.
The Puffin Foundation, which helped fund the easement, planned to have its own tree expert conduct a review, Baratta said.
A decision in early 2010 by former property owner the Union for Traditional Judaism to remove the tree led to a public outcry. UTJ filed for bankruptcy and the land was purchased by Netivot Shalom, which vowed to save the tree.
Teaneck bestowed historic status on the tree last year in a move many thought would provide longtime protection for the 250 to 300 year old oak at the corner of Palisade Avenue and Cedar Lane.
Representatives from Netivot Shalom and the Puffin Foundation could not be immediately reached for comment Friday afternoon.
A copy of the tree expert's report is attached to this article as a PDF.