Really really really really really really pissed.
As many of you know, I maintain a house in Buffalo. It’s a nice little house, near Delaware park. In front of the house, we had this little (30 or so feet) pear tree. Technically, the tree is on city property, but in typical City of Buffalo fashion — the City didn’t maintain it, or really want anything to do with it. About April of last year I started calling the City of Buffalo Department of Public works, first asking and then BEGGING (which — for ALL of you that know me, you know I don’t beg for anything) for the city to trim the tree, which had a number of unruly, but very healthy limbs that needed tending.
So after about 3 months of dead end phone calls to City Hall, we paid to have the tree pruned. It cost about $400 out of our pocket. Not a big deal, but I would have rather eaten the $400 in Ben and Jerry’s rather than having to pay to have a tree trimmed, on top of paying a slew of other taxes and fees — for which, I get nothing.
Then October came in like a lion…The October storm this past year slammed the city with about 3 feet of snow in about 10 hours. I left Rochester in the late morning, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, it was about 60 degrees. After about 5 hours at UB, I came out to find about a foot of snow, and a 30 degree drop in temperature. By the time I got home 2 hours later, there was nearly 3 feet of snow on the ground. I ran out with a push broom to knock the snow from our newly pruned tree — see, the branches still had leaves on them, and the heavy, wet snow was weighing down the branches. Every 1/2 hour or so, for a day (yeah, even overnight), I ran out with the push broom and knocked the snow off the branches and limbs. I was proud the next day that even though the 135 year old maple in our neighbors back yard had lost a significant number of big limbs, our little pear tree made it, unscathed.
Unscathed. Good thing we had it pruned.
And then April came…We received a “CITISTAT” letter from Byron Brown indicating that because of the significant damage our tree had sustained in the October storm, our tree would be cut down. The letter was dire, and was very clear in noting, that the tree was on City property.
Whoa there, Byron buddy… Where was the city when I needed it trimmed? Or during the October storm?
I immediately called the Mayor’s Citizen Resolution Hotline (as so directed in the letter). I called every day for a month with NO response. So, I called the Mayor’s office directly, and spoke with Byron’s secretary, Esther. Esther listened politely, and took down all the details and promised to phone back. She never did.
So I did.
I phoned Byron’s office again, and spoke with Lynette, Byron’s other secretary. She was way less patient (and far less friendly than Esther), but promised to pass along my information to someone “downstairs”.
After a few hours, I phoned Lynette back. Clearly irritated, she clicked me on to hold twice, without asking, and the abruptly told me “I’m doing everything I can, someone will call you back, mmhmm, goodbye.” And she hung up.
No one called.
So I rang up Lynette again. We chatted a bit, and she grew increasingly more rude, and then hung up on me again.
Then the oddest thing happened, someone did call back. This guy Dale that worked for a company called Wendell Duscherer.
Dale explained the whole thing….”See, the City hired us as consultants, and we do this kind of work for FEMA a lot, and it’s a numbers thing, but overall it’s better for the City, because they won’t have the liability for falling limbs and such. See, we have a team, and they come in and look at the tree — there’s standards, International Standard 1888 (note: there is no such standard). See, out where I live, near Batavia, we had a lot of damage too, but our town isn’t helping us, we’re on our own out there, so see, here someone’s helping you.”
Dale and his team helped us the next day. They cut down our tree. The tree team was even kind enough to leave the limbs scattered all over our neighbor’s brand new lawn. Thoughtful, very thoughtful. The entire miserable tree-cutting story, I thought, was mine — some little guy fighting City Hall (and we all know how that saying goes). Until tonight, Dan and I were walking in to the Co-Op, and I grabbed a copy of Artvoice. Apparently, according to Buck Qugley, at least, I’m not alone. In fact, his story was a complete carbon copy of ours until the very end. Buck saved his tree, because he scared the bejesus out of Dale and his team by brandying about the Artovice name, and threatening to publish all the details. Which he did. You can read the whole story at Artvoice. So what’s left? Not my tree. That’s gone, but two things remain: my opinion, and my ability to speak out. My opinion remains the same: the only someone that’s trying to help anyone is Byron and his team to line the City coffers with chlorphyll money (as opposed to blood money, that is…) to which I can only say: “Byron, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame on you. You, and your lack of leadership, have scarred this City — my City — for a score of generations to make a quick buck. Shame on you. Shame on you, Byron Brown, you’ve breeched the public confidence, and it will take the lifetime of a tree for you to earn that back. Shame on you.”