Statement by Mandana Beckman, Principal of 217:
Recently, during one of the school holidays in October our custodial staff discovered that one of the trees on the school property had fallen and was leaning on the building. We were fortunate that this tree did not cause any damage to the building. At this time we were able to evaluate the conditions of the remaining trees on the property. One of the trees in the school yard had died, and for the safety of the students, needed to be promptly removed. The remaining 5 trees that border our property on the north side have long been an issue for the building. There are 2 means of emergency egress from the cafeteria to the area in which these trees stood. This area used to be a patio outside the cafeteria. Because of the tree roots, the patio area is no longer.
For many years, the building has been issued violations both by the FDNY and the DOB regarding this area. The roots of these trees have created a trip hazard, deeming the space unsafe for use by the emergency exits. In the event of an emergency in the building, students occupying this area would be forced to walk through the entire length of the building in order to be safely evacuated.
There has also been a large rodent problem in this area, which is also affecting a nursery school program in the neighboring building. And has resulting in several 311 complaints. There are several rat burrows within the roots of the trees. DSF’s exterminating contractor treats this area regularly but the issue has not abated.
It should be noted that the work order for the trees has been in the system for several months. It took some time to coordinate a schedule with the Contractor and this date has been set for a few weeks.
Please understand that there was no malicious intent regarding the removal of these trees and that all decisions are made with the safety and health of our students and staff in mind. The 217 PTA is exploring ways to replace the trees with a species that is safe and will not cause damage to the property.