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Stony Brook’s LIRR station deforested

The Long Island Rail Road Stony Brook station bare from the removal of trees. The emptiness along the station has left many students and passersby shocked by the drastic changes. BRITTNEY DIETZ / THE STATESMAN

In mid-November, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Stony Brook station, usually surrounded by trees and vegetation, looked bare after the trees on the south side of the platform were cut down.

Besides the notable emptiness of the area, depressions in the ground marked by tire tracks, cut tree branches that grew through the chain-link fence and tree stumps were all that remained.

Stony Brook University’s media relations office checked with the Facilities & Services team and clarified through an email to The Statesman that the area does not belong to the University but is the property of the LIRR.

MTA Spokesperson Joana Flores wrote in an email, “The LIRR manages vegetation along the tracks to help prevent train delays that result from fallen trees, leaves and branches, and to ensure platforms are safe for customers to walk on without overgrown vegetation impeding their path.”

Despite Flores’s claim, the vegetation cleared near the Stony Brook station remained fenced off along the sides of the platform rather than in the path of passersby.

Flores did not respond to questions regarding the dates of the vegetation management, but elaborated over email that over the past few weeks, other stations along the Port Jefferson Branch had undergone similar changes.

CBS New York spoke to residents near the Greenlawn Station on the Port Jefferson Branch in mid-November. They disapproved of the clearing since the trees provided privacy between their homes and the train station. The plant removal also caused rodent issues. Mary Annunziata, a Greenlawn homeowner, told the outlet that her garage was infested with rats displaced from the lack of vegetation, a problem that never occurred in over ten years of living there.

The effects of the vegetation clearing at the Stony Brook station also upset environmental and wildlife-related clubs at the University.

Vandana Menser, a senior majoring in marine vertebrate biology and the president of SBU Audubon — a club that specializes in bird conservation and wildlife rehabilitation — expressed unhappiness regarding how this would affect local bird species, 12 of which are known to frequent the Stony Brook station area.

Some Stony Brook students The Statesman interviewed were unaware that the deforestation took place. However, commuter students like Victor Zhu, a senior double majoring in creative writing and English, noticed how the view of the campus from the platform was now unobstructed and appeared “more barren.”

Flores also did not respond to questions regarding future plans for the cleared area. However, she said the University was also involved in cutting some greenery “to install lighting on the parking spots on the south side of the platform” that involved “[running] their conduits and [installing] pole pedestals.”

 The University media relations office said that the University “recently completed some light pruning, on the upper canopy of several trees” in the parking lot adjacent to the train station. They said this was done due to branches blocking the light fixtures, emphasizing that “No trees were removed.”

However, when asked earlier about the deforestation, the University’s Facilities and Services team commented that PSEG Long Island, an energy company with utility easement control over the LIRR property, “trimmed tree branches around power lines in the area around [the] Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station.” In addition, “PSEG is not required to notify the University when they hire contractors to trim branches around their power lines unless they need to close roads or pedestrian pathways on our campus.”

PSEG Long Island’s Communications Senior Generalist, Jeremy Walsh, claimed that “PSEG Long Island [was] not involved in the vegetation management work.”

While the MTA was responsible for the vegetation management on the south side of the LIRR Stony Brook station, the additional vegetation work and construction that occurs along the station does not appear well communicated among the entities with access to the area. Much like the response to the clearing at the Greenlawn station, the emptiness along the Stony Brook station has left many students and passersby shocked by the drastic changes.

Jason Wood, a senior majoring in environmental studies, said that while the decision for more visibility between the platform and the ground level could be understood, the deforestation “didn’t seem strictly necessary,” adding that “it’s not like people are running through the brush.”

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