Independent Sidewalk Repair

If you are a homeowner with time-sensitive needs for sidewalk repair, or you own a non-Tax Class 1 property that is not eligible for Parks’ Trees & Sidewalks Program, repairing the sidewalk through an independent contractor is often the quickest solution.

Steps to Repairing the Sidewalk Yourself

  1. Hire a licensed contractor who can repair the sidewalk and make preliminary arrangements for them to perform the work. Call 311 for help finding a licensed contractor.
  2. Apply for the necessary permits, including a Tree Work Permit from NYC Parks as well as the required permits from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other City agencies. Tree Work Permits from Parks are typically issued within 45 days.
  3. Parks will review your application for a Tree Work Permit and inspect the tree(s) that is/are damaging the sidewalk.
  4. Parks will issue a Tree Work Permit along with guidelines for how to repair the sidewalk without damaging the tree(s). This permit will be valid for 90 days from the date of issuance.

Once repairs are complete, Parks will inspect the tree and the repair, and issue sign-off if the repairs comply with all permit conditions and preserve the health of the tree(s).

IMPORTANT: Every effort should be made to preserve street trees during construction. Unauthorized cutting or shaving of City tree roots is a serious offense, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. This practice impacts the health and stability of the tree and can result in a hazard to public safety. All excavation and concrete removal within the area of the tree must be performed with extreme care following best practices to minimize impact to trees, including hand and/or pneumatic excavation and careful protection of exposed roots. Please refer to §1-04 Prohibited Uses under NYC Parks Rules and Regulations for more information.

Repair Methods

Depending on the specific site conditions, there are a variety of design strategies and construction techniques available to repair sidewalks around trees. Each solution should seek to make an ideal pedestrian experience while providing as much growing space for tree roots as possible, avoiding tree damage, and providing a durable, long-lasting sidewalk that is less likely to crack or heave in the future.

Repair strategies may include a combination of the following:

Tree Bed Expansion 

As trees grow, they may require more space in the sidewalk. This technique involves the removal or cutting of damaged sidewalk flags from the area directly surrounding the tree and expansion of the tree bed. Expanding the soil surface around the tree is the most common repair method for preventing future sidewalk damage. This practice also increases the permeable surface around the tree to help absorb stormwater. 

Although expansion will create a larger tree bed, sidewalk clearance must always meet accessibility standards. 

Ramping 

This solution involves gradually sloping the new sidewalk over the root system, adding additional base material where necessary to allow space for root growth and avoid root cutting while assuring a smooth, even sidewalk surface.  

Strengthening 

When installing pavement over tree roots or where tree roots are expected to grow, reinforcing concrete with rebar or wire mesh can reduce uneven lifting and cracking in the future.  

Curving 

Typically employed when the tree exists in a lawn pit, this method involves removing damaged concrete and creating a new sidewalk in an arc around the tree.

Sidewalk reinforced with rebar to prevent future damage from tree root growth.

Sidewalk reinforced with rebar to prevent future damage from tree root growth.

Filing a Claim with the Comptroller

If you wish to file a claim against the City of New York relative to repairs you performed to your sidewalk because of damage that you believe was caused by a City tree, you may do so by filing a claim with the New York City Comptroller’s Office within 90 days of performing the repair. 

The Sidewalk Repair Claim checklist outlines the necessary steps and documentation for property owners to file a claim.

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