March 13 2014 03:00 AM

When former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, instituted the Million Trees project, several landscape contractors were given contracts to plant these trees. One of these landscape companies was J. Pizzirusso Landscaping of Brooklyn, New York.

Since 2007, J. Pizzirusso Landscaping has received more than $12 million worth of contracts from the city to plant trees, according to the Parks Department. Now, five current and former Pizzirusso workers claim their employer is ripping off the city. Attorney James Versocki, a former prosecutor with the state Attorney General, believes the problem is widespread and is calling on the city to investigate its landscape contractors.

Some of the allegations are:
The city gets charged for trees that were never planted.
The crews would attach new tags to put on old trees. They would rake the soil, put down some new mulch, so it looked like it was recently planted.
The company would claim it saw-cut into the sidewalk to plant a tree even if it didn’t.

Trees that were planted are the responsibility of the contractor for two years. If they die, the contractor is obligated to replace them. Workers claim that their bosses ordered them to vandalize the trees that died, since vandalized trees are the responsibility of the Parks Department. The contractor’s employees would run over the tree with a truck or they cut it down.

Councilman Mark Levine, chairman of the Parks Committee, plans to hold a meeting on this matter.
“It’s really sobering and something we have to take deadly seriously,” said Levine. “We’re going to pursue this with the Department of Investigation for sure.”