Sunday, September 21, 2008

they came, they dug, they planted

On Friday, a crew from Almstead came by to grind out the stump of the massacred maple tree and plant another one and put in privets to replace the ones killed during the tree murder. In about three or four years, the privets (if they live) will be tall enough to block the street noise from the second floor, where our bedroom is (maybe they’ll be tall enough in two years to block noise from the first floor). In about 20 years, if it lives, the maple they planted might be tall enough to provide a meaningful replacement.

The city of Norwalk's idea of restitution, September 19 2008
The view from our side—that tiny trunk in the middle is the replacement tree. Contrast that with the maple trunk to the right in the picture, which is about the same size as the tree the city destroyed. You can see why we’re unhappy. (click to enlarge)

I’ll post more photos tomorrow some time, but it’s not a very pretty tree, at least not yet, crappy looking small leaves. It’s a red maple to replace a magnificent silver maple. And they ruined some of the stone wall to put the tree in. And left a nasty mess still—left over from the initial disaster—it’s not their job to clean up the mess (the crew that took the tree down is supposed to clean it up). Wanna bet it’s still there next spring? And we’re supposed to water the whole thing every other day for the next two months.

And do we feel “made whole” again? Hell no—we’ll be hearing and seeing the traffic for at least three more years, and we still want to weep when we see the replacement maple. Plus it takes a lot of time and effort to keep them watered as we’ve been told to do—a lot of maintenance where zero maintenance was required before. We’re still waiting to hear what the insurance adjuster has to say—I will be contacting the agency, or rather the claim administrator (Connecticut Interlock Risk Management Agency) myself if I don’t hear from them by Tuesday.

Stanley did trim back the hedge that was encroaching the sidewalk, even spading out the 20 years’ worth of dirt that had accumulated under the hedge (that nobody ever asked him to trim back until last week).

VACATION PHOTOS
I started gathering them up and getting them ready for posting, which I will do tomorrow. But here are two that I wanted to get up right away because I just love them:

Jim and Alice Fleming at Three Mile Beach, Oscoda, Michigan, September 9, 2008
Here is a distance shot of Mom and Dad sitting on the bench on the boardwalk at Three Mile Beach in Oscoda, Michigan, on September 9, 2008. (click to enlarge)

Bingo taking a nap, early September 2008, by Lee Fleming Thompson
No creature is quite as relaxed as a puppy with her belly full. This is Bingo taking a snooze on the couch in Oscoda, at about seven weeks old. (click to enlarge)

posted by lee on 09/21/08 at 11:59 PM

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

mike mocciae said he will fix the mess he authorized

Mike called this morning to tell Stanley that indeed, the tree was on our property and that the city will replace the tree and hedge next week. We are a little stunned at the speed at which this was resolved—but glad. Don’t have any details yet about what, exactly, they are going to replace a mature maple with or what the plan is, but I’m really happy that they are planning on fixing the problem. Getting the sound buffer and privacy back is what we’re after and if this is restored, and restored properly, we’ll be satisfied.

Mary Roman, the City Clerk, said she sent our claim to the insurance company already. Thank you, Ms. Roman!

Most of the tree stumps were picked up yesterday—I called to ask when this was going to be done as the other days the precious kiddies of Nathan Hale Middle School were clambering all over the stumps and I envisioned one of them getting a sliver up his butt and his parents suing us over it. Mayor Moccia helped light a fire under the cleanup, according to Jeffrey Spahr, a city attorney who called yesterday and today. Moccia said, we were told, that regardless of whether the tree was on city property or private property, Almstead had no business leaving a dangerous mess like that.

Spahr also told Stanley that we have to trim our front hedge back to the sidewalk line. It’s petty crap that we knew we’d be asked to do sooner or later—there’s plenty of room on the sidewalk—but we’ll do it anyway. According to Mocciae, people have been complaining about the hedge overhanging the sidewalk. Of course no one ever let us know that it was a problem, and it was never an issue until recently when someone decided that it would be a good thing if the kiddies walk to school instead of being picked up and dropped off by mommies with their SUV prams. For their health. Hence the sudden urgency to kill a tree that might potentially someday drop a branch on Suzy’s head (I thought trees are a big part of the plan for healthy living, but what do I know?)

If they’re so concerned about the safety of the kiddies walking to school on Strawberry Hill Avenue, does this mean the city is going to do something about the speeding and maybe even put a traffic light it at the corner of Tierney Street? If they don’t, this “get the kids to walk” campaign will probably result in kids getting maimed or killed crossing the street. Would love to see the speeding problem fixed on this street—that would be the best way to promote health around here, for everyone, not just the kiddies.

So I’m hopeful that the city will make good on their mistake. Trying not to be cynical, trying not to assume they’ll plant a twig and say that it’s an appropriate replacement for a mature tree, or twigs to replace a 40-year-old hedge. I so want to be wrong about my expectations.

posted by lee on 09/18/08 at 11:13 AM

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

mike mocciae authorized the vandalization of our property

He is the director of Recreation and Parks here in Norwalk and, as such, is the guy in charge of trees on school property. You know, the guy responsible for making sure Norwalk keeps its “Tree City” designation. The guy who couldn’t be bothered to check to see if cutting down a 60-year-plus maple tree was the right thing to do, or be bothered actually going to see the tree he subjected to a chainsaw. Hardly the guy that should be in charge of Norwalk’s trees—he’s more interested in installing a putt putt golf course and other sports facilities—I doubt he gives a rat’s ass about the city’s trees.

If he had bothered to take a look at a tree he was killing, he might have noticed the tree was located in a border hedge, that the tree was alive and fully leafed and healthy, and was not located on city property. But he couldn’t be bothered. He told Stanley that there was some kind of tree report that said the tree was dead, but no, he doesn’t have the report. He claims that “the school” (we assume someone at Nathan Hale Middle School) complained that dead branches were ready to fall on students’ heads—though “the school” never asked us to get any dead branches removed (there were some, the result of Connecticut Light & Power’s tree butchering jobs), which we would have done. He claims he drove by and saw that it was dead—why he felt the need to make this up, I don’t know.

Stanley asked him why we were never notified that they were going to cut down the tree—and Mocciae smugly replied that he didn’t have to since the tree was located on city property. Stanley pointed out more than once to him that the tree was located on our property and even if the tree were on city property, our hedge was still destroyed and Almstead trespassed on our land. We have the survey map prepared when Stanley subdivided his acre back in 1995—the tree was on our land.

Mocciae claims that he didn’t know Almstead Tree & Shrub Company left a dangerous mess behind, and destroyed our hedge as they were taking down a healthy tree (which they claim, on their website, they don’t do).

Mike Mocciae's murder of a tree
the view from the school side—the mess left by Almstead when they murdered our maple at the request of Mike Mocciae (click to enlarge)

We noticed that Mocciae doesn’t seem to give a damn that he destroyed our property—did he come by to see the damage? Not to our knowledge—and I was home all day. He told us to file a claim with Mary Roman, the Norwalk City Clerk. Which we did.

Mary Roman told us that we needed to send her a letter, with photos if we have them, and she would get in touch with the city’s insurance company, who will need to send out a claims adjuster. We sent the letter this afternoon, via email (she said this is fine), along with several photos. I don’t know if she received it or not (or the mayor or city counsel or even Mocciae—I cc’d them all) because she didn’t reply yet or OK the return receipt.

Meanwhile, the mess remains.

The tree and the hedge served as a pretty effective sound barrier—our house is a lot noisier without them as there is nothing blocking the noise and pollution from traffic speeding down Strawberry Hill Avenue nor the noise from the kids when they’re outside the school. We need our hedge replaced, and another tree—but how is the city going to make us whole again when I doubt we’ll be able to get a mature maple to replace the one Mocciae killed or have the hedge grow fast enough to do us any good for at least four or five years? Not to mention the mess—we can’t even think about fixing the problem until the wood is removed and the stump is removed.

the view of the destruction from our land
the view from our driveway—Almstead destroyed our privet hedge when they murdered our maple at the request of Mike Mocciae (click to enlarge)

If the city really did give a damn about the safety of Nathan Hale students, they would’ve been out today to remove the mess, which kids were clambering all over today as they waited for their mommies to pick them up from school (a line of SUVs idling on the street that runs in front of our house—gas isn’t expensive enough yet since, for some reason, these kids aren’t walking the half mile or less to get home. No wonder so many of Nathan Hale’s students are so out of shape.)

What puzzles me the most is this: two dead trees fell on Nathan Hale property and lay there for YEARS before they were finally removed. What prompted the sudden need to remove a healthy tree so fast? The tree was fine on August 23 when we left for Michigan, it didn’t suffer any storm damage or lightening strike, so what really happened?

I hope the City is fair about this. It was Mocciae’s mistake—but if his attitude is any indication of the way this city treats its taxpayers, I have my doubts that we will get the problem resolved without a battle. I hope I’m wrong—we need the problem fixed as soon as possible—preferably while we can still plant things so things are in place by next spring. It breaks my heart to see the tree and hedge gone.

posted by lee on 09/16/08 at 11:59 PM

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Monday, September 15, 2008

why is it so damn hard to get an obama bumper sticker?

It used to be that campaigns just sent out bumper stickers to anyone who donated, or to registered party members. I know, because that’s one of the things I did when I volunteered at various Democratic campaign offices over the past 30 years or so.

Now, you have to PAY for them. We did get a free one from MoveOn.org—but it took weeks and weeks to arrive. I ordered two bumper stickers at the Obama store—but they don’t have any in stock. If I’m lucky, they’ll show up before the election. Obama’s campaign store is a website called http://www.democraticstuff.com—not very reassuring—which is really a store by http://www.tigereyedesign.com.

You’d think with all that money pouring in to Obama’s campaign, he’d at least get a store that can handle the load. I was told by customer service that they ran out of bumper stickers a while ago, but the Obama campaign just ordered more. Like Tiger Eye couldn’t anticipate that more were needed and just print more? How the hell does a campaign run out of campaign materials? People are begging for bumper stickers and t-shirts—paying steep rates for them—and just waiting and waiting for them. It’s not like a hell of a lot of cars have Obama on the bumper—I saw relatively few of them on our trip to the Heartland and back—and this is with the election less than two months away. Like I said—we want them, we just can’t get them. Stupid.

WE’RE BACK FROM MICHIGAN, RELUCTANTLY
We’re back. I have about three weeks of blogging to catch up on, including updated pictures of the new pups and other photos I’ve been planning to post. And I will—just not tonight. I’m way too tired.

That was a fast three weeks. It was so, so painful to leave—I miss Mom and Dad already.

We left about 30 minutes later than intended—Slink escaped from his harness and the car and led us on a merry chase around the house. He looked so beautiful streaking through the grass I couldn’t hate him for giving us such a scare—and it made Mom laugh and laugh. Stanley retrieved him from under the house and then we had to leave.

We drove through torrential rains on Sunday, from just north of Saginaw all the way down to Toledo it never let up. If the highways in Michigan weren’t as good as they are (no floods on the roadways we traveled, unlike I-95 and the Merritt here in Connecticut), we would’ve probably stopped to hole up at a motel someplace, or banged on my brother’s door and crashed in Wyandotte. It took us a long, long time to get to Toledo.

We decided to stop at the first service plaza on the Ohio Turnpike past Toledo, where we got on. Got out of the car an almost got blown over. The rain was moving away, but the farther East we went, the windier it got—hello Ike. We stopped to let the pups poop and give them some water (they traveled really well in the carrier), and could barely stand. The wind whipped the water bowl out of my hand and we had to chase it through the parking lot (hey, it’s a great bowl, with one of those no-drip lids—I wasn’t going to let it go!) Getting out of the car and into our hotel room in Clarion, Pennsylvania was challenging. And Stanley said driving in the wind was much worse than driving in torrential downpours. No internet or cable tv at the hotel due to Ike—I actually went to sleep around midnight.

But we made it. And slept well. And the pups were not too bad in the room.

Today we left the hotel around 10:30 a.m., had breakfast at a great coffee shop downtown Clarion, and arrived home in Norwalk around 5:30 p.m. We kept losing NPR on the radio—funny how all the god stations seem to come in (and why are there so many god stations in Pennsylvania?), but not NPR stations, not even near State College. So we listened to a novel instead, which was quite good and made the time pass very quickly. We were in a pretty good mood when we hit Norwalk.

Until we approached our house. The maple tree on the corner of our property has been cut down! A big, beautiful, healthy, 60-year-old maple on the school side of our lot. Not only is the tree gone, the stumps remain, the mess remains, and our hedge was smashed and is gone, the privet hedge that has been there for 40 years. The only thing wrong with the maple is that Connecticut Light and Power hacked out the middle branches, but the tree was not weak, just looked like the middle was missing under the wires.

We have no idea what agency cut down our tree, or why. No one asked our permission or gave us any notice that it was going to happen. Reneev and Ashi, our neighbors, said it happened last week. Stanley is sick with anger about it—that tree has been there all his life, and no one ever asked permission to set foot on our property, let alone cut down our tree. So tomorrow we need to find out the who and the why and what they plan on doing about removing the debris and compensating us for the hedge and the tree and the mess. I only hope that there was a good reason for it, but suspect it might have been CL&P—they are tree butchers and pretend to ask permission to mangle your trees but really don’t.

Stress levels: back up. Headed to City Hall tomorrow to find out what the hell happened and get the mess cleaned up. Damn.

posted by lee on 09/15/08 at 11:59 PM

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