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Official Website of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Tree Work Activities

Whether you, a contractor, or any other entity are looking to perform work on or within 50 feet of a tree under City jurisdiction, you must obtain a Tree Work Permit from NYC Parks prior to the start of construction. Learn more about which types of construction-related activities require a permit when in the public right-of-way, as well as details about each activity.

Excavation or Trenching Near a Street Tree

Anyone performing excavation or trenching work within 50 feet of a City tree must possess a Tree Work Permit to avoid unsafe or hazardous conditions that may be detrimental to any City tree. It is incumbent upon the applicant to determine whether or not there are any trees or tree roots situated within the right of way. A project does not require a permit where work is performed solely between two curb lines. However, if the work is proximate to the City tree then tree protection must be in effect.

Any and all trees that fall within NYC Parks' jurisdiction are protected by law from any and all damage thereto including but not limited to any incidental damages, damage to the canopy, or damage to the trunk or root zone during and in the course of any and all construction activities, and also the aftermath of any and all construction activities. No cutting or otherwise damaging of tree roots is permitted, and tree work performed absent a permit can precipitate civil or criminal sanctions.

Installing/Relocating/Repairing Utilities

The applicant needs to state the nature of work and clarify if the proposed work requires a removal/transplant, tunneling or a permit to work around existing trees.Types of utilities may include plumbing, gas, electric, water, sewage, cable, phone and internet lines. Most utility connections can be installed or replaced without cutting any roots by tunneling under the tree. Cutting roots by trenching is dangerous and illegal. A Certified Arborist must be onsite during all utility work. Please review the Utility Protocol for work done around trees.

Construction-Related Activities Near a Street Tree

Construction-related tree work permit applications include activities such as excavation, grade changes, equipment/vehicle storage, and any other work planned to be performed within 50 feet of City trees. These applications must be received at least 20 business days prior to the start of work. Construction activities around and adjacent to existing trees require a permit from Parks.

A forester will visit the site to verify the scope of the project and all proposed activities, usually with a member of the party from the submitted application and issue required permit. Other work includes but is not limited to any work done within the drip line of a tree above or below ground and any work done over a tree. This work includes the installation of utilities. Please review the Utilities section for more.

A project does not require a permit when work is performed solely between two curb lines. However, if the work affects to the City tree then tree protection must be in effect.

Removal of a Street Tree

NYC Parks removes all dead street trees within 30 days of notification to 311. No trees within the City’s mapped right-of-way or in a park can be removed without the written permission of NYC Parks. Plan approvals from other City agencies do not constitute the required permission from Parks for tree removal or tree work of any kind. Some front yard trees are still within the City right-of-way.

If unavoidable construction is the reason for the removal request, the applicant is required to provide a letter of intent concerning the removal, an architectural drawing, and site logistics/construction plans. A forester will visit the requested site to determine if the tree is dead, hazardous, diseased, or if an unavoidable construction conflict is present. A tree permit may be issued if the request falls into one of the categories above. If the tree is not dead, Parks will assess the value of the tree based on the NYC Tree Valuation Protocol. The applicant must provide a notarized letter of agreement, stating option to satisfy restitution through payment or tree planting.

Visit our Tree and Stump Removal page to learn more.

Pruning or Transplanting Trees

NYC Parks prunes street trees on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Visit our Tree Pruning page to learn more. Should you wish to have the tree pruned at your own expense by a licensed arborist, we will consider your request for a no-fee Tree Work Permit. No work may be performed on or within 50 feet of a street tree without a permit from Parks.

Managing Pests

Spraying for the control of insects and disease must be completed by a licensed professional. Any applications related to construction activities must be accompanied by the appropriate documentation required in the Tree Work Permit.

Removing Stumps

All tree stumps that remain from tree removals conducted by NYC Parks are recorded and registered. Stump removals by Parks are dependent on the availability of funding. Visit our Tree and Stump Removal page to learn more. If you would like to hire someone to remove a stump you must apply for a Tree Work Permit.

Installing Ornamental Tree Guards

Any tree guard installed or altered around a city tree must have a permit. Approved ornamental tree guards should be three-sided, approximately 18” tall, with no sharp points, installed on the outer perimeter of the tree bed and are positioned at least one foot short of the curb with the curbside open. Solid walls are not permissible. Water must be able to flow into the tree bed on all sides.

By installing a tree guard, the applicant takes full responsibility for maintaining the tree guard in a safe condition indefinitely. If the tree guard is not maintained in a safe condition, then it may be removed by NYC Parks. Ornamental tree guard permits will not be granted without submitting a proposed design. Please review our Tree Guards page for more information and to find pre-approved designs.

Ornamental tree guards are not approved as a tree protection method during construction activity. Review our Tree Protection Details for a guide to construction-related tree protection. 

Installation or Removal of Ornamental Decorations on Tree

Any decorations, including lighting, installed on a tree must have a permit. Lights will be permitted in the winter, but must be removed before the end of February. Any lights found on trees between February and October may result in a fine to the business/homeowner where the tree is located.

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