Michael Ricatto, a Florida real estate investor who has a home in Kew Gardens, posted fliers on trees throughout the neighborhood in an attempt to find his stolen "Donald Trump: Make America Great Again” signs, which have been stolen four times in past six months.
But stapling the fliers to the trees angered many residents, who claimed the trees were damaged in the process.
Upon receiving several complaints from residents on August 28, the Parks Department inspected 40 trees. The agency's foresters found that 11 of 40 trees had deep staple wounds, which equated to more than $40,000 worth of damage.
"Parks takes size, lifespan and overall health of a tree into consideration when determining replacement costs to ensure that we can adequately replenish the city's tree supply,” a spokeswoman for the Parks Department said.
"Destroying a tree’s protective layers can expose its sap, the tree’s lifeblood, to parasites and fungus, which can have harmful long-term effects, including death," she added.
It is illegal to deface, kill or remove any trees and plants. The Parks Department has not connected the damage to Ricatto. According to the spokeswoman, "tree damage reports are being filed, and Parks is still determining the appropriate course of action."
Adrienne Pie, a resident who moved to the area last year, said one of the reasons her family picked the Forest Hills/Kew Gardens area was because of the green space and the tree-lined streets.
"It upsets me that Mr. Ricatto stapled these fliers to all of the trees for his personal vendetta with no regard to how it might impact the trees or his neighbors," Pie said.