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Who would have thought that faced with the usual list of urban woes -- street crime, taxation, aging infrastructure, sluggish snow removal -- Buffalo residents would complain the loudest about the condition of city trees.

But that, Common Council members say, is the No. 1 complaint of residents. Many of the 160,000 trees that shade parks and line the streets are in deplorable condition because of neglect. Some pose danger to life and property. Many need to be trimmed. Some need major surgery. A few should be cut down and replaced.

Council members and challengers who campaigned door to door for this year's primary election say they were told the limbs of some trees hang so low over sidewalks they could whack you in the head. Other trees blot street lighting. Some scrape against or lean on houses.

The good news is that Mayor Masiello's office has heard the same kinds of complaints, and directed city forester Peter J. Pasnik this summer to determine the scope of the problem. As a result, the Council has approved a $2.8 million emergency plan for trimming trees and removing dead or dangerous ones using private contractors.

In addition, the Council passed a resolution by North District Council Member Dale Zuchlewski calling on the administration to develop a five-year tree-care plan. This is not the time for finger pointing. True, the problem developed from neglect, but there was no shortage of other problems that required time, attention and money.

When Masiello took office in 1994, the tree trimming operation was down to one semi-retired forester with no crew and no equipment. Gradually, manpower has been hired so that now there is a six-man crew with three pieces of heavy equipment. But keeping up with the workload is impossible.

Now that the Council and mayor are aware of the scope of the problem and agree that drastic action is needed, residents should never have to put up with this situation again.

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