Removal of Tree Trapping Residents Hardly Solves Woes of Astoria Block

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on November 4, 2012 12:30pm 

ASTORIA — A tree in Astoria knocked down by Hurricane Sandy, which had trapped en elderly couple inside their house, including a 78-year old paralyzed man, was finally cut up Friday night, but residents in the tree-damaged neighborhood say the city has a long way to go in finishing the job.

The tree, which grew on 28th Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue, fell on Monday at 9:30 p.m., and caused a series of headaches for the neighborhood. With roots that tore through the sidewalk, and smashed two cars, it caused the power outage in the area, crashed the fence of one building and trapped the elderly couple.

Many other streets in the area struggle with similar problems and have been closed to traffic. Portions of Ditmars Boulevard between 27th and 29th streets are closed due to a downed power line.

On Saturday morning, power cables were still dangling in front of the house at 22-12 28th Street and parts of the tree that remained were blocking the sidewalk and the street. There was still no power restored in the immediate area.

Sofia Karamantzanis, 72, and her husband Nick, 78, who is paralyzed after suffering a stroke, have lived in the house for more than 40 years.

"They are traumatized," said their son, Paul Karamantzanis on Saturday. "They are freezing, and my father's blood pressure went up."

Earlier this week, Karamantzanis was so frustrated with the situation that he tried to cut some of the tree benches himself.

With many on the block without power, neighbors like Rufus Davenportm who lives next door, complain about having no internet either. He said that Con Ed and Verizon had been working in the area. “But no one can actually finish their work until the tree is removed,” he said.

Across the street, Georgia Hatzis, 52, has been trying to take care of her ill mother.

In preparation for Hurricane Sandy, her 75-year old mother, Tina Hatzis, who broke her right leg in January and has been recovering ever since, was moved from one health care facility in Long Beach to another in Hempstead.

But after the hurricane, the number of people being brought to the center stretched the facility’s capacity and Hatzis was told that her mother would be relocated from her room to a shared open space.

“So last night I brought her home. I couldn’t let that happen,” Hatzis said on Friday morning.

There is no gas and no power at their home, Hatzis said, breaking into tears.

Kathy Dawkins from the city’s Office of Emergency Management, said that considering the circumstances in the city, it’s impossible to know when this particular situation will be resolved. She said that people who want to have trees removed from their streets, should call 311.

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