The great neighborly outdoors

ownership of the tree depends

Tree next to fenceAs I’ve noted, being a homeowner was new to me when we bought this house 19 years ago. Ever since, it’s been a series of neighborly negotiations with various sets of folks.

A couple months ago, a panel of the fence separating us from the the neighbor to the south fell down. The neighbor was irritated with us. He surmised that someone came into our backyard and cut the fixtures holding the fence in place. It DID look cut, but what would be the purpose?

He believed we should have fastened our gate more securely. While it is true that our gate swings open now and then with a stiff breeze, it’s not for lack of trying to correct it. We have had at least three people come and “fix” it, but it remained unfixed.

In fact, one Saturday morning, the latch was somehow positioned so that I could not even leave my own yard. I wonder how it happened? I had to use a large rock to liberate myself from my own property.

The neighborly fellow to the north pointed out that a large branch – about four meters long – that has its roots on our property but overhangs onto his, came crashing down. It may well have been that tree, though he has a similar one on his property.

He claims that the branch nearly came down on his shed, which would have cost US $10,000 to replace. I seriously doubt it’s worth 20% of that, but no matter.

This got me to wondering: who IS responsible for those branches? This article from a Rochester (NY)N newspaper notes:

“In New York, a property owner is responsible for any trees on their property — more specifically, the trees whose trunks are on their property. Ownership of the tree depends on where the trunk of the tree is located, regardless of where the branches are located.

“If a tree trunk is located on a boundary line — sometimes referred to as a ‘boundary tree’ — that tree could be owned by both homeowners, based on the percentage of the tree that is located on each property. Insurance companies will sometimes use those percentages to determine who is liable if a tree comes down and causes property damage.

“A property owner can take down branches that hang over their property — up to the property line, even without permission from the tree owner. However, the law also states that if a homeowner trims branches on a tree and that causes damage to the overall health of the tree, that person could be liable, and might have to pay to replace it.”

In fact there are a lot of articles on the topic. I imagine we’ll get the whole tree trimmed this summer as a precaution, though we may ask he neighbor to kick in on the cost.

Movie review: Fences, based on August Wilson’s play

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis were Tony winners in the 2010 Broadway version of Fences.

The movie Fences is quite extraordinary. Some critics said it may be the best self-directed film ever, with Denzel Washington as not only star and director, but producer as well.

Troy Maxson (Washington), a garbage collector in 1950s Pittsburgh, who had dreams, and arguably the talent, to have been a major league baseball player, had integration in the sport come sooner. His wife Rose (the magnificent Viola Davis) tries to keep him and their working-class family ship afloat.

Fences is an adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-and-Tony-award-winning play. James Earl Jones and Mary Alice also won Tonys in the 1987-1998 Broadway production. Washington and Davis were Tony winners in the 2010 Broadway version which also won the award for best revival of a play.

Interesting video comparison between Jones’ and Washington’s performances here or here. Jones’ reading is sterner, while Denzel’s reading is garnering laughs.

I had seen a production of Fences at Capital Rep in Albany during the 1990-91 season with John Amos (Good Times, Roots) in the lead role, and that iteration, as I dimly recall, seemed less intense early on.

Denzel in the movie, though, is as ferocious as James Earl Jones was on the stage; that scene does not garner guffaws. Is it the different media, or six years that have passed that got him to revisit the character, or both, I can’t say. But what it does do is make the chinks in his armor even more profound.

The rest of the cast of Fences, the movie, is also strong. Stephen McKinley Henderson as Troy’s good friend Jim Bono, Jovan Adepo as Troy’s younger son Cory, Russell Hornsby as his grown son Lyons, and Mykelti Williamson as his brother Gabriel creates a fine ensemble.

I knew fellows like Troy Maxson and his friends growing up, mostly the men of the church where I grew up. It stirred some strong emotions throughout. There’s a bit of my father there, for sure.

The Wife and I saw Fences on Martin Luther King’s actual birthday, naturally at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. The less you know going in, the better. Recommended.

‘Cause like a good neighbor…

At the beginning of the school year, we were coming home and this college student was waiting for us so he could introduce himself, and his mother, to us.

We have been in our house for 12 years as of May 8. Since that time, neither of our immediate neighbors live there anymore. On the one side, there were a couple of sisters and their kids and their husbands or boyfriends. They were a tad uncouth, especially in the summer when I could hear the occasional profanity-laden tirades. But we got along well enough to negotiate the building of a fence between us, sharing the cost; the old fence was falling apart. (See MENDING WALL by Robert Frost.)

The guy now is a lot quieter, and responsible. He seems to have a LOT of tenants, though, and I don’t know if they are relatives or borders; if the latter, that’d be in violation of the city code.

On the other side was a great family. But the patriarch died. One family member bought a second house a few houses down but then moved out of the original house. This guy who does not live there purchased the building, renting it out to three distinct groups of college students a couple of years ago. The young women who lived there the first year were terrible. They might sit on the second-floor porch and pour their half-drunk beer out onto the ground, which would inevitably spray in our direction.

But the guys this year were great. At the beginning of the school year, we were coming home and this college student was waiting for us so he could introduce himself, and his mother, to us. Two hours later, he brought one of his roommates over to introduce him to us. We were in shock. Another guy engaged us while we were doing yard work. I actually knew them by name (Daniel, Andrew, Sam, among others), whereas the women last year, save one grad student who was living alone, wouldn’t even acknowledge our presence with a nod of the head. When we’ve had issues with the guys (cigarette butts on our lawn, a bit of noise), we were able to talk to them and the situation would be rectified.

So when they had a graduation party, they invited us over. We got to meet (or meet again) their parents, and other folks in their lives, including a writer from the local newspaper, Steve Barnes; one of the guys had an internship at the paper. I’m going to actually miss those fellows, and hope their replacements will be as civil.

Oh, and the former next-door neighbor let us use the electric lawnmower. I try to use the reel mower, but busyness plus rain can preclude that.
Richard Dawson died. I watched him on Family Feud – but his successors not so much – and also enjoyed him on Match Game and the comedy Hogan’s Heroes. Here’s a Hogan’s Heroes tunnel gag, and Dawson discussing meeting his wife on Family Feud.

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