After buying the property at a bankruptcy auction two years ago, members of Netivot Shalom proudly declared the tree would be spared — even though it precariously threatens the safety of those who pass beneath it at the busy intersection of Cedar Lane and Palisade Avenue.
The previous property owner, the Union for Traditional Judaism, had the right idea, vowing to cut it down. That only fired up the congregation, however.
Pretty soon, state Senator Loretta Weinberg was involved, promising that county tax dollars would be used to help preserve the tree. Her late husband had fought to save it from the developers’ chainsaw, she said. So would she.
The Puffin Foundation, a Teaneck-based philanthropic organization, offered to put up $200,000 for a conservation easement and to take care of the eight-story, 300-plus-year old behemoth going forward.
With taxes increasing, and people losing jobs, these philanthropists wanted to throw a fifth of a million bucks at an inanimate object that threatens to do someone serious hurt should major winds blow through Teaneck.
If you live in northern Bergen County, you know how likely that is and what kind of damage can be done.
The very favored tree itself lost a huge branch that fell onto the sidewalk two summers ago, somehow missing anyone or anything. And it stands virtually alone, too close for comfort to mostly single-story buildings, with no wind-breaking protection from other trees — as unsteady as a drunk in the middle of the sidewalk.
Although they didn’t mention it, I trust the mayor and council members considered the potential liability when they passed on an opportunity to put the red oak on the township’s list of historic sites.
Even if it doesn’t fall directly on them, responsibility for a horrific topple would have still come down on their heads.
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