Trees & Sidewalks Program
In front of one-, two-, and three-family homes not used for commercial purposes and occupied by the owner only (legally designated as NYC Tax Class 1), Parks’ sidewalk repair program can help repair severe sidewalk damage caused by root growth. Funding to this program is limited, and repairs are made based on the severity of damage. Parks can assist you and your contractor if you wish to repair the sidewalk yourself by requesting a free Root and Sidewalk Consultation.
How to Sign up
Call 311 or use our tree service request system to request enrollment of a site in the Trees & Sidewalks program.
Notices of Violation
If you have already received a Notice of Violation (NOV) from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the extent of the sidewalk repair required to lift your Notice of Violation may be beyond the scope of the program, which will only address damage caused by the roots of a City tree. If you would like to hire a private contractor to perform the work, you may request a free Sidewalk Consultation for design recommendations from Parks.
Understanding your Evaluation
Once we receive a Trees & Sidewalk request, a Parks Department Forester will inspect the site. Inspectors qualify and quantify the damage to the sidewalk at each site by rating the site according to a number of criteria. These criteria include vertical lift, number of damaged flagstones, the volume of pedestrian usage, passable sidewalk width, and the condition of the tree. Your sidewalk will be inspected and evaluated on a scale up to 100 based on the following criteria:
The location’s usage is determined by the volume of pedestrian traffic. Highly trafficked areas will be scored higher than areas with less use.
Clearance is determined by how much of the sidewalk is impacted by the damage. Narrow sidewalks will be scored higher than wide ones, where the damage can be more easily avoided.
Damage and Vertical Lift
Vertical lift elevates the level of sidewalk joints. Sidewalks that are cracked but not raised will rate lower than those that are lifted and present a greater tripping hazard. For example, lifts less than 1/2 inch will rate lower than lifts of more than two inches.
Tree condition is evaluated to determine the potential benefit of a sidewalk repair based on tree longevity.
Number of Damaged Flags
The number of sidewalk flagstones damaged by tree roots will be taken into consideration, with higher scores going to sites having multiple damaged flags.
Repairs will be made according to the sidewalk priority rating. We repair the sidewalks with the highest priority ratings first. Homeowners who have time-sensitive needs for sidewalk repair may wish to fix their sidewalks themselves by requesting a Sidewalk Design Consultation and obtaining a free permit from Parks to work around the roots.
We will employ a variety of design strategies and construction techniques to repair sidewalks around trees. Each solution will seek to optimize the pedestrian experience while minimizing damage to tree roots. Repair strategies include:
Tree Bed Expansion
This technique involves the removal of damaged sidewalk from the area around the tree and expansion of the tree bed. Expanding the soil surface around the tree is the most common method of repair work and is necessary to prevent further damage to the surrounding sidewalk. This practice also increases the permeable surface to help reduce stormwater runoff.
Although expansion will create a larger tree bed, sidewalk clearance will always meet accessibility standards.
The grade of the sidewalk is gradually raised to bridge large roots while assuring a smooth, even sidewalk surface.
The sidewalk is reinforced with rebar or wire mesh to reduce uneven joint lift due to tree roots as well as the likelihood of random cracking in the future.
A curving pathway around tree roots increasing the room for trees and providing a unique aesthetic value. This design approach is particularly advantageous in some cases as root pruning/slicing is prohibited.
A layer of coarse gravel is installed under the new sidewalk to increase the space for rooting and to help reduce the build-up of condensation which in turn reduces shallow rooting.
All excavations and concrete removals within the area of the tree are performed with extreme care. We employ best-of-class tree protection methods including hand and/or pneumatic excavation, exposed root protection, and minimizing soil exposure time.