- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

L.Peter Farkas lives in ever-increasing fear that the three black walnut trees that hover menacingly above the roof of his home in Foxhall are poised to crash through his American Dream with the next big gust of wind.

The highly toxic trees are indifferent to property rights and the growing frustration of Mr. Farkas, a lawyer who has wrestled with the issue since July.

The trees rise out of a hill on a property behind the home of Mr. Farkas, readying to add to the homeless population of the District unless the unresponsive owner elects to trim the environmental hazards.

“My kids won’t stay with me when they come to town,” Mr. Farkas said yesterday. “My friends keep their biking helmets on when they come over for dinner. I can’t fall asleep when Channel 4 ‘Storm Central’ announces a wind advisory of 15 mph. It is all because of the malevolent presence of the dreaded black walnuts.”

In September, Mr. Farkas drafted a letter to Chatel Real Estate, the District-based firm that manages the apartment building at 4559 MacArthur Blvd., citing his concerns with property damage, personal injury and the toxic effect the trees have on certain plant life. Mr. Farkas also enclosed digital photographs with his written plea.

“As you will agree, the conditions created by the nuisance [trees] interfere with my quiet enjoyment of my property,” Mr. Farkas wrote. “I therefore renew my request that the owners of 4559 [MacArthur Blvd.] remove the [trees] as soon as practicable, as they have previously done for other trees after complaints.”

A representative of Chatel Real Estate soon came to the home of Mr. Farkas to inspect the worrisome scene. More photographs were snapped. A subsequent follow-up note was dispatched to Mr. Farkas, with assurances that the situation would be addressed in due course. That was last fall.

Mr. Farkas has had no communication with the property management firm since then.

Last month, in desperation, Mr. Farkas tried to renew dialogue with Chatel Real Estate.

“I have not heard from you in nearly five months,” Mr. Farkas wrote. “What did the board decide? I want to bring this to a head before the spring, before the trees regain their canopy and baseballs start falling again.” Mr. Farkas embraces the worthiness of the black walnut as much as the next tree-hugger, but is disinclined to have one taking up residence in his bedroom on the second floor.

Mr. Farkas also objects to the baseball-like walnuts that drop from the trees in late summer and early fall, when he is most apt to spend time on his backyard patio.

He complained of the flying projectiles after several near misses. Then one day … Plunk.

“I took a direct hit to the head with deadly force,” Mr. Farkas said. “Several NFL quarterbacks have had to retire because of too many blows to the head. I’m afraid the cumulative impact of walnuts to the head could have the same effect on my legal career.” So Mr. Farkas is sentenced to live in the uncomfortable presence of the three black walnut trees, with a diminishing quality of life. His roof has sustained damage on two occasions because of the walnuts. His gutters routinely become stuffed with tree debris.

Mr. Farkas, if incrementally, is losing the sanctity of his home. It is his dream. It is his curse. He is left to ponder the legal merits of his case after finding that Chatel Real Estate does not feel his pain.

He made his last appeal to Chatel Real Estate on Feb. 14, more than five weeks ago, and still no word, nothing, not even a tiny acknowledgement that his missive was received.

Mr. Farkas is here to contradict the view of Robert Frost that “good fences make good neighbors.” A fence, alas, is no impediment to the black walnut tree.

“He obviously did not have to contend with black walnut fusillades,” Mr. Farkas said.

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