Saturday, May 25, 2024
73.5 F
HomeNewsResidents Sue the Town of Mamaroneck Over New Tree Law

Residents Sue the Town of Mamaroneck Over New Tree Law

Photo: Amy Lieberman

Five residents of the Town of Mamaroneck have filed a lawsuit against the Town in Westchester County Court, asking that its recently-passed tree law be declared null and void.

The Plaintiffs have sent the following statement to theLoop:

Over near unanimous opposition, the Town passed a law this past fall that allows

property owners to cut down virtually all their trees and lifts all limits on the Town’s

right to cut down trees on Town property. The latter restrictions had been in place for

nearly 40 years.

The law allows mature trees to be cut down so long as property owners plant by a

few tiny trees or pay into a “Tree Fund” that can be used for almost any outdoor

costs. The Town calls the law a “Tree Replacement Law” and contends that the new

trees will “replace” the old ones. The law faced unanimous opposition.

Without consulting any scientist or citing any facts, the Town insisted that the new

law’s requirement that old trees be “replaced” by one to four tiny new ones or that a

payment be made will have no adverse effect on the environment or on Town character

or beauty. It maintained this stance despite experts, the Town’s environmental advisor,

its own employees, the Planning Board, the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee,

and some 500 residents telling the Town that this idea was preposterous and that they

did not want this new law.

What makes the new law even more absurd is that, as the Town recognizes, it has a

“Climate Emergency.” It suffers from rampant flooding and a rapidly-declining tree

canopy. Mature trees help reduce flooding and maintain the canopy.

By intercepting rainwater with their leaves, absorbing rainfall through their roots, and

aerating the soil, mature trees reduce runoff. Runoff, which carries fertilizers, pesticides,

oil, gasoline, and other debris, creates erosion and flooding and pollutes our sensitive

environmental areas and the Long Island Sound. The Town is well aware of its flooding

problems but turned a deaf ear when residents recited these facts and related how they

themselves had been devastated by repeated flooding.

Similarly, by sequestering carbon, mature trees offset greenhouse gas emissions. In

2019, New York State passed a law called the Climate Act, which requires the State to

reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 85% by 2050. The prior Town

1administration embraced the Climate Act and committed to reaching these goals,

specifically telling its climate advisory group to draw up plans to reverse declines in the

Town’s tree canopy. But the new administration has reversed course, most obviously by

passing the new Tree Law, which essentially permits cutting down all trees.

The lawsuit just filed seeks to have the new Tree Law declared null and void.

The lawsuit argues that the new law is invalid for several reasons.

• First, it is irrational and is not based on any facts. The only reason that the Town

gave for passing it was that property owners purportedly have a right to do

whatever they want to do on their property. But there is no such right. Commu-

nities can pass all kinds of laws that place restrictions on property owners for

“the common good.”

• Second, by law, the Town Board was required to assess the effect that the law

will have on the environment before passing it. But the Town Board improperly

delegated this responsibility to the Town Attorney, and he abdicated that

responsibility by not performing the review that the law requires.

• Third, the Town failed to consider whether the new law was consistent with

what is called the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, a nearly-forty year-

old state, federal, and local government program that requires that all actions

taken by the Town be consistent with the Program’s goals of protecting our

waterfront area — which includes our whole Town — and Long Island Sound.

• Fourth, the lawsuit argues that, in exempting itself from any restrictions on

cutting down trees on Town property, the Town violated two ancient doctrines,

the Public Trust Doctrine and the Charter of the Forest. These provide that the

public have a shared interest in natural resources on public property. These

resources do not “belong” to the Town alone.

• Finally, by refusing to give residents a copy of the proposed Tree Law while it

was being drafted and discussed by the Town so that they could follow along

during the discussions, the Town violated what is called the Open Meetings Law,

which seeks to permit people to observe their lawmakers at work.

The lawsuit is now before a Westchester County Supreme Court judge. The Town’s

response must be filed by April 19th.

Inquiries may be addressed to Andrea G. Hirsch, the attorney who is representing the

plaintiffs, at 212 267-1411,, and to Robert Herbst, the named plaintiff

in the case, at 914 275-



Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Suska Varda
Suska Varda
April 12, 2024 10:16 AM

Thanks for this story. Sadly it’s not surprising to hear about another stupid ordinance from the town of Mamaroneck that excludes the public’s input. This one was obviously made before last week’s insane windstorm that snapped a huge number of trees like matchsticks. I was shocked to see how many trees have fallen. The trees are old and will fall in future storms. New trees need to be planted everywhere!

Judy Herbst
Judy Herbst
April 11, 2024 10:21 AM

A healthy, mature, beautiful tree was cut down yesterday in TOM. Our community deserves a code to PROTECT our trees. This code needs to be revised.

Andrea Hirsch
Andrea Hirsch
April 8, 2024 8:08 PM

Anyone interested in seeing the papers themselves may access them at the following link: Click on the index number and then on efiled documents 33 and 31 (the amended petition and memorandum of law).

Andrea Hirsch
Andrea Hirsch
April 8, 2024 8:18 PM
Reply to  Andrea Hirsch

(The easiest way to access them may be by doing a party search and, under plaintiff, input “Robert S. Herbst,” the first named plaintiff.)

Catherine Lepone
Catherine Lepone
April 7, 2024 8:28 PM

Hopefully, the Town will reconsider their actions. The law did not take into account the expert opinions of many in the community. It is flawed legislation.

Fran Snedeker
Fran Snedeker
April 7, 2024 8:32 AM

this article articulates clearly what an appallingly stupid law was passed. WHAT were they thinking??

Jenny Geer
Jenny Geer
April 6, 2024 9:51 AM

Thank you for posting this article — the tree law was passed without regard for significant public opposition from concerned residents (including almost 400 petition-signers) who wanted it to be more protective of our rapidly diminishing tree canopy. Glad to see citizens are challenging it.

John phillipson
John phillipson
April 5, 2024 8:24 PM

My property my trees. I agree with the town law. We are over regulated by government as it is

BD Spelman
BD Spelman
April 5, 2024 1:03 PM

Good for the people trying to right a wrong committed by the present Supervisor and Board members! Losing the healthy mature trees is not helpful with the flooding we experience now.

• C O M M U N I T Y • C A L E N D A R •

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x