Sidewalk repairs means some trees will have to come down

Jan Gratkowski is not happy that the tree in front of her flat has to come down because it has lifted up the sidewalk.



By Charles Sercombe

          Jan Gratkowski has lived on the corner of Casmere and Moran for over 20 years, under the shade of a huge tree.

          It survived the tornado of 1997 that swept through town and toppled about 500 trees.

          But this 100-something-year-old tree won’t survive this summer’s sidewalk repair program.

          It has a red “X” on it – meaning it’s marked to be cut down. In fact, at the time this paper went to print, it might have already been removed.

          “I think it’s a shame they have to cut down all our trees,” Gratkowski said.

          The “they” Gratkowski referenced is the city, as in the city administration.

          Acting City Attorney Kyle Tertzag said about 35 to 40 tall trees have to come down because they have lifted up dozens of sidewalks slabs, which in turn have caused dozens and dozens of trip and fall lawsuits filed against the city.

          So, the trees have to come down.

          “It’s a shame we have to do this,” Tertzag said.“I’m very cognizant of the environmental impact of losing a decent amount of trees.”

The city has already begun to take down trees for an upcoming sidewalk repair project.

          But his hands are tied.

          The city has been sued so many times that its insurance deductable is so high it’s to the point where the city has practically no insurance coverage at all.

          Tertzag said past city planners didn’t think things through and allowed trees that grew too big to be planted in the space between the curb and the sidewalk. That has resulted in slabs being lifted up by tree roots, and that is an accident waiting to happen for anyone walking or biking down sidewalks.

          “Unfortunately, for one reason or another some of the trees on the easement are too big for that space,” Tertzag said.

          There could be an alternative, but that would require everyone wrapping their collective head around a very radical sounding idea.


          That idea came from Ron Dawson who lives above Jan Gratkowski. He suggested looking up a website called:

          Yes, that’s a mouthful, but in that site you can read what some communities are doing to address giant tree roots that heave up sidewalks.

          Those communities are turning to pouring asphalt ribbons instead of concrete slabs.

          The asphalt, the organization says, can better withstand the force of roots because the material is not poured in slabs.

          It’s been done in Europe.

          However,  there is a green side to what’s happening to the city.

          Tertzag said the trees that come down will be replaced with new trees, but ones that won’t grow so large.       

          Still, a bunch of big canopy trees are coming down. And Ron Dawson echoed Joyce Kilmer’s famous ode to trees when he said:

          “It’s a shame to cut down something so beautiful,” Dawson said.

          Or as Kilmer said: “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”

The Scarlet letter


6 Responses to Sidewalk repairs means some trees will have to come down

  1. csercombe

    June 23, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    This came to The Review e-mail from “anonymous”

    I choose to leave my name anonymous, because I like my privacy, however, I had to respond in regards to the article about the cutting of the trees in this last weeks Review.
    I’ve been a Hamtramck resident for 8 yrs, first of all. I live in the 11500 block of Lumpkin. There are red marks on the sidewalk in front of my house. There isn’t a red “X” on my tree yet,
    but I’m still worried. The tree in front of my house provides much shade on these warm summer days. It also triggers nostalgic feelings of peace when sitting out on the balcony in the evening and listening to it’s leaves rustling. I actually get excited and even giddy when it’s first buds start to show in April and May, in anticipation of Summer. I consider it an extension of the house, and part of the reason in my choosing of this particular flat. I have to say, if they cut my tree down, I will probably move. I love Hamtramck and it’s uniqueness, and have always respected the city officials and Mayors of this city for their stubborness and unwillingness to let this town go to shit. I have to draw the line with this one. “My” tree in front of this house is over 100 yrs old, and “they” have no right to take it from me, let alone from an environment which needs every tree it can get. There are several ways to resolve the issue at hand without cutting down the trees. The asphalt idea was a good one. What about cutting the roots back where the sidewalk is and just replacing the cement there? The roots will take years and years to grow back there, and maybe by then Hamtramck will have it’s shit together. The trees will survive. How hard is that? “Hands are tied”, my ass!

    Additionally, I’d like to add that from time to time I smell an awful strong odor of burning plastic when I get off of I-75 at caniff. This hasn’t happened for several months. It did happen on a few occasions though, and I’m sure one of those plants, (recycling plant?) were burning plastic, or something they shouldn’t have been doing. Chances are if it smells toxic, I’m probably
    breathing in toxic fumes. Not happy about that. Another scary thing is that when I take walks in the evening, I smell natural gas in front of quite a few houses on my walks. In fact, tonight my girlfriend and I both smelled it very strong outside our place, and if the odor isn’t gone tomorrow, we will call DTE.
    Anyhow, thanks for letting me vent. I know my voice doesn’t make much of a difference, but I couldn’t go silently into the night this time. Peace!

    anonymous Hamtramck Resident

  2. Koawsiki

    June 23, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Any new planted trees will never compensate for these wonderful ones. Have you seen the trees planted in front or Royal Kabob. They look like toothpicks!

  3. Chris Schneider

    June 29, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    An ‘X’ went on my tree three weeks ago, as well as my entire sidewalk. I have a beautiful, healthy maple tree that provides shade and a host of other benefits to my property. I went to City Hall’s public works department and asked why my tree was marked. They did not know, but promised that if I left my number they would call me with an explanation. They also said that if any work was slated to be done, I would receive a letter in the mail explaining why.

    The tree cutters are getting closer to my home, and the public works department has yet to fulfill either of their promises.

    My sidewalk is not upheaved, my tree is not damaged or diseased. However, there are a few homes and buildings down the street from me that are burned out breeding grounds for vermin and criminals. Tearing down these structures, plus a huge list of other items, seem to be far more urgent than destroying my tree.

  4. Steve Hughes

    June 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    It’s a shame the city didn’t research other options for sidewalk repair. Many of the trees being removed are healthy. In most cases, sidewalks could have been repaired without removing the tree. The process is not complicated. In fact it’s less expensive. Also the city’s criteria for what trees go and what stay seems arbitrary, as many dead trees do not have the red X for removal. This project is blight on the city.

  5. Mike McShane

    June 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Just another verse in the same line of Shimmelshit. A not so cleverly disguised scheme to line the pockets of their cronies at taxpayer expense of course. I sincerely hope the EFM sees right through this bullshit. Many many more higher priority issues at hand.

  6. Wytchyker

    November 21, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Cutting down beautiful healthy old trees to save a sidewalk is shortsighted and really bad for everyone. It makes the city uglier. I have no doubt that someone is making money cutting down as many trees as they can.

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