We believe the Village of Sag Harbor agreed nearly a decade ago, when it helped establish the Sag Harbor Tree Fund, to protect our historic street trees and we would encourage the village to continue to honor that commitment by only taking down the black oak on Jermain Avenue as a last resort.
We concede that should the tree be hollowed out and present a danger to the community as a dying tree dropping limbs into the street that the village would be left with no other choice but to remove this 100-year-old oak. However, barring this scenario, or one where the village legitimately explores traffic calming measures at this section of Jermain Avenue, or seeks an insurance company willing to protect a municipality committed to this kind of preservation, we see the removal of this tree as setting a bad precedent.
What unnerves us about this situation specifically is there appears to be a willingness on the village’s behalf to remove this tree not because it is dying, but because it appears to be a hazard due to its location in the roadway. We understand it is the village’s responsibility to protect its residents from facing untold amounts of liability as well as hazardous conditions, we are not convinced every avenue has been explored in this scenario.
We encourage the village to look at ways to keep this oak, if it is in fact a viable tree, through planning or engineering as is often done in communities committed to historic street trees that often, in their quirky way, stick out into roadways that were designed around them in the first place.
In a time where we are seeking to protect the character of our community with every tool we have, we would like to see the same initiative used on behalf of village officials in this case.
We do live in a litigious society, as Sag Harbor officials well know, dealing with a number of lawsuits over the last decade brought by people who did not have the foresight to watch their own step. We bemoan the fact that people across the country do not seem able to take responsibility for their own actions any more, rather placing the blame on someone else’s shoulders for their own errors. However, we would hate to see the village allow itself to be victimized by these very people and begin what we see as allowing that fear of litigation, in part, dictate what we deem worthy of protection.