After Richard Brummel returned in front of the Mineola Village Board for a third straight week Wednesday night at the village hall, several Mineola residents stated that they had had enough with the East Hills environmentalist’s efforts at saving a large red oak tree on Roslyn Road and getting the village board to implement a tree preservation policy similar to the one in his hometown.
William Urianek stated that after the February 13 meeting, “I spoke to quite a few people because quite a few people called me and one thing they asked me is the board thinking about putting the law in about protecting trees? If you are, please let me know because there’s a lot of people that want to petition against it because they don’t you telling them what to do on their property. Putting a law like that in is absolutely ridiculous.”
Mineola has received “Tree City USA” recognition by the National Arbor Day Foundation for the past 27 consecutive years for its continuing efforts at planting trees. The village will also be replacing approximately 450 trees that were damaged, destroyed or uprooted after Hurricane Sandy.
Brummel first appeared before the village board on January 16 concerning a red oak tree in the rear yard of a foreclosed property at 208 Roslyn Road that he believed was about 125 years old and had the potential to be destroyed if the property were sold to development.
He was since proven wrong on the tree’s age by deputy mayor Paul Pereira, who said the previous meeting that the tree does not exist on historical aerial photographs.
“It’s unusual to find, it’s an asset to the community,” Brummel said Wednesday night. “Whether there is some dispute over the age of it, if you wanted to do an actual boring of the tree I’m sure we can find out exactly the age.”
Pereira also dispelled a large portion of the signatures that Brummel had collected, which reportedly were from outside the Mineola community.
“I would say that I have somewhat remiss in my canvassing of the community,” Brummel said. “I got only a handful of additional signatures, about 45.”
Brummel reportedly made an appearance at the Mineola Library on February 16 to gather signatures for his petition.
Resident Dennis Walsh, who is running for village trustee, said that his wife was at the library Saturday afternoon when Brummel approached her asking her to sign the petition “and told her that trustee Werther and Pereira were on his side in favor of it. He said ‘Paul Pereira and Larry Werther are both in favor of this so would you please sign?’ And thank the Lord she didn’t sign; gathering signatures with a false story like that.”
In a release, Brummel stated that he had now collected over 200 signatures and “the purpose of the petition is to demonstrate public interest; do the Trustees really want to tell everyone who shops or works here, or attends sports events here that their opinions count for nothing?”
Pereira and Werther both confirmed that they had spoken to Brummel after the conclusion of the February 13 meeting, but maintained that their comments were taken out of context by Brummel.
“I resent the fact that you misrepresent the comments that I made to you,” Pereira said from the dais.
“What I said was I’d be willing to write a sense of the village or put my vote to a sense of the village,” Werther said, explaining after the meeting that a sense of the board is not binding and simply “informs the homeowner that we think the tree is a beautiful thing and if you can preserve it, fine, but we’re not going to go as far as saying that you can’t cut it down.”
Pereira would add that “I told him, it was followed up by ‘I unequivocally do not support any law like the ones that you’re proposing in this village, period’,” Pereira said after the meeting. “So I think he took the first part of my statement where I said ‘I respect your passion, I respect your zeal, I respect you standing up for something you believe in and coming down here and following through with it,’ but he was... saying that oh, yeah, I agree – absolutely not. For him to say that I was on his side, absolutely not.”
Brummel however believes that the board is not representing residents who want to preserve the tree no matter the costs.
“Your doubts that people strongly support protecting a tree regardless of if it’s a private property, your doubts are not reflective or don’t reflect the sentiment of the neighbors that I have spoken to,” he said. “There is definitely a schism in opinion, there’s a small minority that I’ve encountered that doesn’t support extending protection to a tree on private property.”
A back-and-forth developed between Brummel and the board with Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss stating that “we’re in touch with our residents. We see them on the soccer fields, the baseball fields, the stores, we see them all throughout our daily duties as residents, as homeowners, as neighbors, as fathers; nobody’s come up to me that lives in Mineola asking for anything about this. It’s quite obvious to us that the residents of the Village of Mineola are satisfied with the way things are.”
The mayor later told Brummel that “you’ve been here three times, we understand the ideas that you have, if you want to get into an argument about timeframes and you want to go down that road, I’m in for the fight,” to which Brummel denied that anyone was in fact fighting.
“You kind of wore out your welcome with me last week when you compared yourself with Captain Byler,” Werther said, referring to comments made by Brummel comparing his campaign with that of the war on terror.
“My parallel was in comparing the Global War on Terror that man fought to the war on Global Climate Change that we also must devote all of ourselves to, if we want to save our planet as we know it,” Brummel said in his release.
“I realize that my job is to bring some residents in here who will tell you themselves because they’re busy, you don’t have very many residents who come in here,” Brummel said at the meeting.
“I just want the guy to basically move on and go away and leave us alone,” Pereira said after the meeting. “We know how to run our village.”