Rooting out the issue

It's a quiet, sun-drenched afternoon on Syracuse's north side. Children are playing and toys are scattered around manicured yards of Martin Street. Not a piece of litter in sight and if it weren't for birds chirping you'd think you we're viewing a photograph from Community Development describing a model "Syracuse" neighborhood.

Michelle Vertefeuille purchased the house at 154 Martin Street in 2004. Unknowingly, she also acquired a problem beneath the surface of the front yard that's been affecting this neighborhood for years. It has become a hazard that impacts the entire block.

At first glance it's just a big tree splitting the sidewalk with root systems extending from a massive seventy-five foot maple tree. Once confined to 154 Martin Street, the tree's root system has grown aggressively in all directions, creating root-induced pavement bulges.

Vertefeuille wants the tree destroyed. "Look at the bark coming off," she says. Vertefeuille added that an independent tree expert said he was concerned about the crotch, the part of a tree that forks into two branches, being weakened.

The maple's tall branches extended like giant arms toward the sky; one barren limb plays tag with the home's roofline. At its base, generations of blacktop and sidewalk are pushed away by the trunk as if to say, "Get out of my way."

Pavement bulging has begun to affect Vertefeuille's neighbors. "The people next door just had a baby they can't use the sidewalk with a stroller," Vertefeuille said. "For my neighbor who's confined to a wheel chair visiting this part of the block is off limits to her because of the sidewalk. My children can't ride their bikes in front of their home."

Vertefeuille was verbally informed by City of Syracuse Code Enforcement that her sidewalk had been "condemned" and that she'd better do something or she would begin to incur fines.

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