MillionTreesNYC Creates Issues for Property Owners

Tree roots often cause sidewalks to buckle.

Last week, we reported that Bloomberg’s MillionTreesNYC plan calls for 220,000 new trees along city streets. The initiative has received much positive feedback, but the Daily News reports that many residents are not too thrilled about new street trees.

The article focuses on neighborhoods in the Bronx and Queens, where trees are being planted along the sidewalks. Residents are angry because, while the city owns the sidewalks, the property owners are responsible for their upkeep, including removing snow and repairing damage. And a lot of that damage comes from tree roots that grow and cause sidewalks to buckle and break, creating dangerous bumps.

Up until 2003, the city was liable for all sidewalk accidents. Then Bloomberg enacted legislation transferring liability to property owners in an effort to save the city money. So the city still owns the sidewalks, but property owners are fully responsible for them.

So, the city can plant trees on whatever slice of sidewalk they please, but then any damage the tree causes to the sidewalk becomes the responsibility of the owner whose property touches that piece of sidewalk. The Department of Transportation, which oversees the city’s sidewalks, can issue a “Notice of Violation” to any property owner within the five boroughs if there is a fault in the sidewalk. The property owner then has 45 days to begin work. To do so, an owner must take out a sidewalk repair permit at the price of $70 per 300 feet, and pay out of pocket for a contractor to make the repairs. If an owner does nothing after receiving a violation, the DOT will make the repairs and bill the owner for the cost.

It’s easy to see why some property owners are against trees being planted in front of their homes. Councilman James Vacca (D-East Bronx) told the Daily News that he wants to preserve the right of a homeowner to say that he doesn’t want a tree planted near his property.

But isn’t it the city’s property?

Should the city continue planting trees wherever they see fit? Should property owners have a say? What do you think?

Categorized | Features, In The News, Land

This post was written by:

jessica.dailey - who has written 11 posts on Explain The Plan.

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3 Responses to “MillionTreesNYC Creates Issues for Property Owners”

  1. I don’t usually spend time to drop a comment, however it is hard to find good information on this topic today. You did a fantastic job in this article and I think I’ll check out your other articles as well. Keep up the good work!

  2. Ann-A says:

    Homeowners do NOT have to pay for tree-damaged sidewalk repair.

    from the website

    Tree roots have pushed up my sidewalk, what should I do?

    If your sidewalk problems are caused by tree roots, dial 311 and request an inspection by asking for the Trees and Sidewalks program. The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will receive the request and arrange for a tree inspection. DPR will let the property owner know if the sidewalk is eligible for repair under their Trees and Sidewalks program. To repair the sidewalk using a private contractor, you should hire a licensed contractor who will obtain a work permit from DOT. DPR can assist you and your contractor with repairs to sidewalks around street trees free of charge. This work must be coordinated with DPR by dialing 311 and requesting a Root and Sidewalk Consultation. Please note that no street tree roots can be cut without written permission from DPR.

    If you have received a Notice of Violation from DOT and DOT repairs the sidewalk, the tree-damaged flags of the sidewalk are non-assessable and the property owner will not be charged for those flags.

  3. jessica.dailey says:

    Thanks, Ann, for your comment. I see that you are correct. In 2005, Bloomberg announced the Trees and Sidewalks Repair Program that covers the total cost of repairing sidewalk damage caused by tree roots. Homeowners have to cover the cost of all other damages.


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