Street trees at the center of storm damage in Frankford

- Heavy rain Thursday made a mess of things in Philadelphia’s Frankford section. As is often the case, street trees were at the center of the damage. They provide beauty and shade when the sun is shining, but when wind and rain arrive, they start falling like dominoes.

As tree removal crews delicately cleared debris from the top of his 1994 Volvo, Gary Simmons could only sigh.

“They don’t make them like that no more,” Simmons exclaimed.

It was shortly after 7 Friday morning, in the midst of monsoon rains, when Gary and his neighbors on the 4700 block of East Wingohocking heard the telltale sound everyone in these tree-lined neighborhood fears.

“It was like a cracking, that’s all it was,” said neighbor Lydia Pimentel.
“You look out the window, what do you see?” asked FOX 29’s Bruce Gordon.
“The tree is down!” Pimentel exclaimed.

“About ten seconds later, when I hung up with 911, it fell off. This one fell down and sparks flew all over the place,” another neighbor, Angelica Rondon said.

A massive street tree next door to Simmons’ place toppled over and took with it power lines, a utility pole and a huge limb from another tree that crashed down on Simmons’ car.

Simmons said he’s been complaining about the tree for several years and he contacted the city’s 311 hotline for help in mid-June.    

“They were going to come out and assess the problem, maybe trim it back or cut it down, depending on what the problem really was,” explained Simmons.
“And that was in June?” asked Gordon.
“That was around June,” answered Simmons.
“And nobody ever came out?” asked Gordon.
“Nobody ever came out,” Simmons replied.

The city sent crews out Friday morning, only because the downed trees were blocking the street. PECO crews had to cut power to several homes for several hours while the mess was cleaned up.

As for Gary Simmons’ Volvo? Just another casualty of the overgrown and under maintained trees all over the city.

And, that June telephone call for help? 

“You just do the best you can. You make the right reports to the right offices and hope they do what they’re supposed to do. And, you leave it in their hands,” Simmons said.

It’s not clear what kind of help the city would have, or could have, provided.

As has been reported by FOX 29, street trees – though planted by the city, perhaps years before the homeowner moved in – are, indeed, the homeowner’s responsibility.

Most residents say they can’t afford to maintain the trees, which, in a lot of cases, grow far too large for the spot in which they were planted.
 

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