MERRICK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — People in Merrick have a lot of four letter words for the LIRR.

They’re fuming because the railroad has removed hundreds of trees, drastically changing the landscape.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the LIRR called the clearing of trees ‘vegetation management’ but residents along Bedford Ave in Merrick call it ‘decimation.’

After decades of living with a wooded backdrop to their homes, suddenly all is barren.

“It’s lousy, it stinks,” Michael Tufano said.

The buffer along the tracks used to consist of mature trees that lined backyards, they’re gone now, leaving only stumps.

Without notice bedroom windows have become eye level with passing trains that used to be hidden behind woods.

“We used to enjoy the view, now this is what we have. A whole ecosystem, total disregard for life, total disregard for the residents that live here,” Femy Aziz said.

With no trees to anchor the sloped soil there’s concern about flooding.

The buffer also muffled passing trains.

“Now every time a train passes by you hear the noise, even the dishes shake,” Ziville Ratas said.

An LIRR spokesman said the trees were on railroad property and that just like utility lines, rail lines have to be free of vegetation for safety and to reduce train delays, “resulting from downed trees, tree limbs, and slippery leaves on tracks.”

Even with the right to do it, legislator Steven Rhoads said it’s wrong.

“It seems like a lot more damage was done than was necessary and the impact of surrounding homeowners is devastating,” Rhoads said.

Still, some homeowners wondered why the beautiful trees had to be cut down instead of trimmed.

Trimming branches — the railroad concluded — would not have protected signal and communication lines, nor secure a clear line of sight for train engineers.

The community plans to meet with the MTA to demand replanting and advance notice on which neighborhood down the line is next.

The LIRR promised that they’ll return for a clean up, and to assess whether they need to do anything to prevent soil erosion.

There are no plans to re-plant the area.



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