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Frequently Asked Forestry Questions

 

General

Who in the City is responsible for street and park trees?

The Department of Parks & Recreation has jurisdiction over all trees growing in the public right-of-way, including trees along streets, parkways, and in city parks. Within Parks, the Forestry Divisions are responsible for the maintenance of our nearly 600,000 street trees. Initially, newly planted city trees are watered and maintained by a tree planting contractor for two years. Once the two-year period has passed, responsibility for the care and maintenance of street and park trees is transferred to the Borough Forestry offices. There, forestry crews manage and maintain our mature trees to improve their longevity and the benefits they bring to us.

Submit a Forestry Service Request Online

Use our new tree service request system to submit a service request, and we’ll route your submission to the appropriate NYC Parks division and provide you with a tracking number and details about how your request will be addressed.

Are there any regulations governing street trees?

Yes. Regulations are noted in several sources, including the City Charter, sections of the Administrative Code, and the Rules of the City of New York. On April 30, 2008, the City Council adopted the Street Trees text amendment to the Zoning Resolution. This means that any new developments or significant renovations from this point forward will be required to plant one street tree for every 25 feet of building frontage or plant off–site where there are space limitations.

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Planting

Why is New York City planting a million trees?

Street trees are a key element of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC—a citywide initiative to make New York City greener and more sustainable as our population grows. As part of PlaNYC and MillionTreesNYC, the Mayor has pledged to fill all available sidewalk spaces with trees over the next ten years. This means that Parks & Recreation will be transforming entire blocks and neighborhoods across the city, turning them from gray to green as we plant new trees. Just as residents do not determine the placement of city infrastructure such as traffic lights, bus stops, or fire hydrants, they will not be able to refuse the planting of a city tree in the public right–of–way.

Trees are shared assets that benefit everybody. Street trees make the city more livable, improve the environment, and enhance public health. They beautify blocks, increase property values, and cool and clean the air. By shading hot surfaces, trees reduce the formation of ozone, which can trigger respiratory problems in children and the elderly and contribute to greenhouse gas formation. Trees also reduce storm water runoff and lower building energy costs. The economic benefits of New York City's street trees are valued at $122 million annually.

How can I get a tree planted in front of my property?

The easiest way to request a street tree on city property, including sidewalks, is to submit a request using our tree service request system or call 311. When a specific tree planting request is received, a Parks & Recreation forester will survey the site. If there are no infrastructural complications, the tree will be put on the list to be planted in the next available planting season. You can also apply for a permit to plant a street tree yourself if you would like. For more information on this process, please visit our Street Tree Planting page.

Can I choose which species is planted in front of my house?

While you can make a suggestion as to which tree you would like to see in front of your house, it is ultimately up to the forester to decide which species is most appropriate. During the forester’s required site visit, they will take into account the locations surrounding conditions, potential conflicts, and their knowledge of each type of tree’s particular growth habits. Their primary objective during this process is to select a tree that will thrive and grow safely to provide the greatest possible level of benefits to a neighborhood. Species diversity is also crucially important to the health and longevity of the overall urban forest.

Can I request to have an entire block planted?

We have a Block Planting Program to assess and target those neighborhoods in the greatest need of greenery. Sections of our city with low tree canopy cover and high population densities are already the first priority on our block planting schedule, ensuring that each tree offers the greatest benefit and  that the initiative reaches all citizens. If you would like to see more trees on your block, please note the specific individual addresses and submit individual New Tree Requests online or by calling 311.

How can I plant a sidewalk tree myself?

When a resident requests a free street tree from Parks, there is often a waiting period of over one year because we receive so many requests. However, it is also possible to obtain a permit to plant a tree yourself. Tree Planting Permits are granted for two planting seasons— in the spring from March 1 to May 31 and in the fall from October 1 to December 31. Please be sure to read all street tree planting instructions before applying for and planting any street tree(s). If you are constructing a new building or doing large renovations, you may be required by the Department of Buildings (DOB) to plant street trees along the building frontage. For more information on this process, please visit our Street Tree Planting page.

Does Parks plant trees on private property?

Parks & Recreation does not plant trees on private property. However, Parks’ MillionTreesNYC  partner, New York Restoration Project , is working to help property owners plant trees through nursery discounts and tree giveaways. If you have planted a tree recently, whether through NYRP or on your own, please help us reach our goal of one million trees by reporting the planting to MillionTreesNYC. If you are unsure whether a site is located on public or private land, be sure to contact the property manager first before making planting arrangements.

Related Links

Request a Street Tree using our tree service request system.

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Maintenance

How do you manage and care for trees in New York City?

All newly planted city trees are maintained for their first two years by the planting contractor. Once the two-year period has passed, responsibility for the care and maintenance of street and park trees is transferred to the Borough Forestry offices. There, forestry crews maintain our mature trees to improve their longevity and the benefits they bring. However, we can also use the help of fellow citizens in caring for our trees. For more information on this process, please visit our Street Tree Care page.

What are tree gator bags and how are they used?

Treegator® bags are a practical solution for watering immature trees in danger of neglect. A bag is placed around the bottom of a tree trunk, and when it is filled with water, it slowly and evenly delivers water directly to the tree's roots, which promotes the growth of deep and firm roots. While Parks does not immediately replace missing or damaged bags on street trees, the device itself is moderately priced at approximately $20 and is potentially a one-time purchase for concerned local tree stewards.

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Permits and Work on/Near Trees

May I work on a tree myself?

Proper care of large trees entails hazardous work that should only be carried out by skilled workers trained and experienced in arboriculture. Parks & Recreation conducts routine pruning of all street trees. If you think that a tree is in a hazardous condition that requires immediate attention, you can call 311 to report the problem or submit an online service request. A Parks forester will then inspect the tree and, if necessary, correct any problems. We do offer some helpful tips for citizens to help care for our trees, and MillionTreesNYC offers free stewardship workshops to interested residents and community groups. If you think that a city tree requires work and would like to perform the work yourself, please follow our instructions for working on or near trees. For young and newly planted trees, Trees New York, a not–for–profit organization, offers a course in the care of street trees.

If I want to conduct work around a City tree, do I need a special permit?

Any person wishing to plant a tree on city property or do work on or around street or park trees must first obtain a permit from Parks. This includes, but is not limited to pruning, fertilizing, spraying for the control of insects and disease, planting, installing decorations, installing tree guards, and removing or relocating an existing tree. Persons who complete a tree care workshop offered by MillionTreesNYC will receive tools and a membership card which gives permission to amend soil, water trees and plant flowers.

Persons failing to obtain the appropriate permits before engaging in work on or adjacent to city trees are liable to arrest and prosecution under Section 18–129 of the New York City Administrative Code and Title 56 Section I–04(b)(1) of the New York City Rules. Most violations are misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 90 days. Removing a tree without a permit and damaging trees are very serious offenses, punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.

Why does Parks require a permit for tree work?

All trees planted in the right–of–way are under the jurisdiction of Parks & Recreation. The city has an interest in protecting and preserving these trees because they enhance the streetscape and provide numerous benefits to New Yorkers. For example, trees increase property values, reduce air and water pollution, reduce energy use, and improve human health and well–being. The permit process allows Parks to review proposed work to ensure that it includes only desirable and safe planting, removal, maintenance, and protection practices. Please carefully follow our instructions for working on or near trees.

What happens if I don't get a permit?

Persons failing to obtain the appropriate permits before beginning tree work are liable to arrest and prosecution under Section 18–129 of the New York City Administrative Code and Title 56 Section I–04(b)(1) of the New York City Rules. Most violations are misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 90 days. Removing a tree without a permit and damaging trees are very serious offenses, punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and/or imprisonment up to one year.

How can I get work done on a tree?

Any person wishing to plant a tree on city property or do work on or around street or park trees must first obtain a permit from Parks. This includes, but is not limited to, pruning, fertilizing, spraying for the control of insects and disease, planting, installing decorations, installing tree guards, and removing or relocating an existing tree. Persons failing to obtain the appropriate permits before engaging in work on or adjacent to city trees are liable to arrest and prosecution under Section 18-129 of the New York City Administrative Code and Title 56 Section I-04(b)(1) of the New York City Rules. Most violations are misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 90 days. Removing a tree without a permit and damaging trees are very serious offenses, punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.

What if my tree needs routine rather than emergency pruning?

Parks & Recreation conducts routine pruning every year on a portion of city trees in each community board in order to keep our mature trees healthy. If you think a tree is in need of maintenance pruning, you can wait for the regular cycle or you can contact 311 to request an inspection by a forester who can assess the pruning needs of the tree. The forester will then decide if the tree needs pruning more immediately or if the next pruning cycle will correct the issues.

If you would like the tree pruned before that, you can apply for a permit to perform work on the tree with a ISA-certified arborist. Please refer to our Working On or Near Trees page to address your particular concern. If the tree is entangled in electrical wires, please contact the appropriate utility. Our forestry crews are not authorized to prune around high voltage power lines.

May I arrange for a private tree service to work on a City tree?

If you think that any city tree requires work outside of these Parks’ regular maintenance programs, you can apply for a permit for an ISA-certified arborist to perform work on the tree. Please refer to our Working On or Near Trees page to address your particular concern.

Why aren't tree limbs picked up by the pruning crew?

Depending on the extent of the tree work, the Parks forestry crew performing the work may not be able to immediately remove the wood debris from the site. In cases such as these, forestry crews are required to leave brush or logs neatly piled near the curb. This debris is picked up within 90 days by another crew. However, if woody debris is left on the street more than 24 hours after a block-pruning operation by a Parks contractor, please call 311 and notify them of the issue. A forestry crew will be assigned to the debris removal, and the matter will be resolved as soon as possible. Please keep in mind that, while Parks strives to leave its worksite as clean as possible, the area may not always be completely free of small twigs, leaves, chippings, or sawdust.

Can I plant annuals or perennials in my street tree bed?

Planting tree bed flowers is a simple way to beautify a neighborhood and can be performed by any citizen; however, we request that you follow our landscaping guidelines.

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Sidewalks

Why was a part of the sidewalk cut away from the tree pit?

Parks & Recreation now creates bigger tree pits in order to allow more room for water infiltration and tree root growth. When other street trees are planted along a block, some existing tree pits are expanded at the same time to improve the health of the tree and reduce the possibility of future root / sidewalk conflicts. All trees pits are cut to uphold the specifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Can I get reimbursed if the new sidewalk I put in was removed when a tree was planted?

Parks & Recreation does not reimburse property owners if new sidewalk is removed when a tree is planted.

Am I responsible to repair the sidewalk in front of my house if the tree damages it?

The property owner is responsible for any sidewalk repairs in front of the property. However, one-, two-, or three-family homes occupied by the homeowner (Tax Class 1) are eligible for Parks' Trees & Sidewalks program, where sidewalks that are heaving due to conflicts with tree roots are repaired. Property owners of all other property types are responsible for the upkeep of the adjacent sidewalk. Please note that root slicing is illegal and dangerous because it compromises the stability of the tree. Please refer to our Sidewalk Repair page to address your particular concern.

The roots of the tree in front of my property are causing my sidewalk to heave. How do I go about making the necessary repairs?

If you live in a one-, two-, or three-family home occupied by the homeowner (Tax Class 1), you are eligible for Parks' Trees & Sidewalks program, where sidewalks that are heaving due to conflicts with tree roots are repaired. If you are not eligible for the Trees & Sidewalks program, or the tree has been inspected and you would like it to be repaired before the program date, you can schedule a Sidewalk Consultation with a Parks forester for help with the design of the new sidewalk. Before starting work, you must apply for a permit from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to repair the sidewalk. Please note that root slicing is illegal and dangerous because it compromises the stability of the tree. Please refer to Sidewalk Repair for your particular concern.

Related Links

Report undesirable sidewalk conditions using our tree service request system.

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Tree Health

How can I protect the tree in front of my house from getting damaged?

Parks & Recreation recommends installing a tree pit guard around the edge of a tree pit in order to protect street trees from damage caused by car doors, bumpers, garbage, and other types of street and sidewalk traffic. To learn more, please visit our Street Tree Care page.

What is a tree pit guard or grate?

Tree pit guards are the low metal fences around a tree pit that can protect trees from damage caused by car doors, bumpers, and other types of street and sidewalk traffic. Guards also protect the soil by providing a barrier to foot traffic and discouraging dogs from depositing waste in tree pits. Tree grates are metal contraptions that cover tree pits. Parks & Recreation no longer allows the use of these because when the tree reaches a certain size, the grate can strangle the tree and kill it.

What do I do if I see someone harming a tree?

Report it online or call 311 immediately to report any tree-related emergency incidents or situations. It is also helpful if you can take a picture and/or record the license plate of the offender. The city will tend to the harmed tree and investigate the offense.

How do I report a problem with a street tree?

Parks & Recreation's Forestry Divisions respond to homeowner requests for tree inspections, including requests to remove dead trees and stumps, perform hazard pruning, remove hanging branches, and tend to other tree-related emergencies. Please use our tree service request system or call 311 to report the problem.

The tree in front of my house just looks unhealthy. What should I do?

If any city tree looks sickly or diseased, please use our tree service request system or call 311 to report the problem. A forester will inspect the tree and decide how to improve its health or, if necessary, remove the tree. If you suspect the presence of an Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) infestation, please note this along with your request and call 1-877-STOP-ALB (1-877-786-7252) to report the sighting.

What do I do if I find insects in a tree (e.g. beetles, caterpillars, bees)?

Many insects are not harmful to trees. They may take shelter in a tree without damaging it, or they may even provide benefits to a tree, as in the case of ladybugs eating aphids. If there is a bees' nest in the tree that seems hazardous, please do not destroy it. Instead, contact a bee re-locator in your borough to move the nest. If you think that there is an insect infestation that is harming a city tree, you can request an inspection from a Parks forester by using our tree service request system or calling 311, or you can obtain a permit to hire an ISA-certified arborist to care for the tree. If you suspect that any tree has an Asian longhorned beetle infestation, please call 1-877-STOP-ALB (1-877-786-7252) or visit the USDA’s BeetleBusters website.

How do I know if my tree has Asian longhorned beetle?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service has the following list of signs to look for:

  • Adult beetles with 1 to 1 1/4 inch-long bodies and 2-inch-long antennae. Their bodies are shiny black with white spots, and their antennae have bands of black and white.
  • Large (1/2 inch) round holes on the branches of the trunk, created when adult beetles emerge from the tree in the spring and summer.
  • Round or oval pits in the bark (up to 1/2 inch in diameter), where females chew out a niche to lay their eggs.
  • Piles of sawdust accumulating at the base of trees or where branches meet the trunk, caused by beetles exiting from inside the trees.

For more information, please visit the visit the USDA’s BeetleBusters website.

How do I know if I'm in the quarantine zone for the Asian longhorned beetle?

The Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) quarantine zone is a regulated area where beetles or ALB damage have been found. It encompasses over 100 square miles of Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Up-to-date maps of the quarantine zone  can also be found at the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service  (APHIS) and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets  (NYSDAM). This area is expanded and maps updated as new infestations are found. Residents should be alert for ALB infestations wherever they are and notify the proper authorities should they suspect an infestation.

What do I do with my wood debris if I'm in the quarantine zone?

Sanitation no longer collects wood debris generated in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and a portion of Staten Island. Instead, Parks & Recreation collects and chips all private wood debris generated within this area. To schedule an appointment for pick-up, you can fill out the online form or call 311. Improper disposal of wood waste in this zone could cause further spread of the Asian longhorned beetle so it is very important that residents dispose of their wood debris properly.

Related Links

Submit a service request using our tree service request system.

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Trees and Existing Infrastructure

What can I do if I know there's a utility line in the way of a new tree pit?

Before planting, a Parks Forester surveys each site for infrastructure conflicts. This includes objects such as telephone poles, street lamps, and fire hydrants. The forester then contacts the electric and gas companies to have the street marked for underground utilities. We do not dig tree pits that are in danger of hitting electric or gas lines. By the time the pit is marked out on the sidewalk, we have verified that the site is suitable and safe for planting.

If you damage my sprinkler/electric line/water main/cable, what recourse do I have?

If a legally installed and permitted utility line is damaged when a planting contractor digs a new pit, Parks will ensure that the contractor restores it.

My sewer is clogged, and I suspect that roots from the street tree in front of my house are the cause. Can I have the tree removed?

Parks & Recreation does not give permission to remove healthy trees, even if their roots are growing into a sewer line. Tree roots sometimes grow into a sewer line if there is already a leak because they follow water availability, but they do not crack lines that are not already damaged. Therefore, the best way to prevent this from occurring is to have your sewer line repaired. Please be aware that removing a tree without a permit is a very serious offense, punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.

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