Who Is Responsible for Trimming the Trees in Front of My Property?
Changing seasons – Winter, in particular – can wreak havoc on the trees lining our city streets and neighborhoods. Storms bring down branches, and sometimes entire trees, upon yards, cars, homes, and streets, causing incalculable hazards, inconveniences, and injuries. Whose responsibility are these trees, though?
Per NYCGovParks.org, The Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) in New York “has jurisdiction over all trees growing in the public right-of-way, including trees along streets, parkways, and in city parks.” Further, DPR is responsible for routine annual pruning for these trees. However, DPR does not accept requests for routine maintenance of street trees, with the following request exceptions:
- Dead or damaged trees or limbs;
- Trees or branches that are blocking streetlights, traffic signs, or signals;
- Blocked street or sidewalk access;
- Property damage directly resulting from fallen trees or limbs;
- Trees, limbs, or branches are directly in contact with live power or telephone lines.
It is essential to understand that the City of New York is not responsible for any tree on private property. On occasion, however, the New York Department of Transportation (DOT) may find it necessary to enter private property to remove a tree or limb posing a danger to the traveling public. Before doing so, DOT will attempt to notify the landowner, whenever feasible, of their plan to remove the offending debris.
Whether requested or not, DPR, in cooperation with DOT, is responsible for removing hazardous trees and limbs as part of their regular day-to-day maintenance operations. DOT, working through its staff and contractors, cuts or prunes trees to address the following safety concerns:
- Remove dead or dying trees or limbs that are likely to fall on the highway.
- Maintain sight distance at intersections and along the roads.
- Maintain clear zones along the roadside by removing trees/brush that are or could become dangerous fixed objects.
- Prevent growth from shading roads in winter. Shading prevents the sun from melting ice, requiring extra salt and deicers.
- Remove growth that causes snow drifts on the right of way.
- Improve the roadside appearance and open vistas to the surrounding landscape.
- Remove trees that are invasive species.
DOT seeks the public’s assistance in promptly reporting any trees or limbs on the roadway that they consider potentially dangerous to travelers and workers. DOT employees and contractors strive to achieve the highest level of safety when maintaining existing roads, designing new roads, and removing potentially hazardous conditions.^
Finally, per the New York City Administrative code:
§ 18-105 Trees under private or public ownership; care and cultivation.
“All trees in streets, which on the investigation are found to be without ownership, shall be under the exclusive care and cultivation of the commissioner, and such commissioner shall employ the most improved methods for the protection and cultivation of the trees selected for preservation, and remove those condemned as unfit for cultivation. Trees found to be in the care of individual owners, corporations, societies, or associations, shall not be subject to the commissioner’s jurisdiction unless the owners thereof make a written application to the commissioner to have such trees transferred to his or her care. If the commissioner approves the such transfer, he or she shall assume full control thereof, and the former owner shall be relieved of all expenses connected with the cultivation of such trees. In all cases where landowners, societies, or associations elect to plant and cultivate their trees in streets, such planting and cultivation must conform to the rules and regulations adopted by the commissioner. The commissioner may, however, on the written application of any land-owner, plant and cultivate trees on the streets adjoining his or her land and charge for such service an amount not to exceed the actual cost to the department for labor and materials.”
In short, the City of New York is responsible for reasonable and routine pruning and care of trees along the street in front of your house. If, however, you experience personal injuries due to falling debris or trees due to the neglect of the City, we encourage you to call the legal team at Daniella Levi & Associates, P.C. The premise liability lawyers at Daniella Levi & Associates, P.C. understand the effects of public nuisances upon New Yorkers in cases such as these. Our legal team is here to help you get the attention, response, and benefits to which you are legally entitled.
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