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

Tree Protection Best Practices and Protocol

  1. Anyone performing any and all work performed within 50 feet of a City tree must possess a permit issued by NYC Parks to avoid unsafe, hazardous and other conditions which may be detrimental or potentially detrimental to any city tree. It is incumbent upon the applicant to ascertain as to whether or not there are any trees or tree roots situated within the city right of way. 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. Any and all tree work must be permitted. Tree work performed absent a permit can result in civil or criminal sanctions. Violations are punishable by a fine not to exceed $15,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year. Any and all applications relating to construction activities must be accompanied by the appropriate documentation as requested by the Tree Work Permit or upon Forester request.
  2. Applicant shall notify NYC Parks' Forestry division at least 20 business days prior to the commencement of any work requiring a permit.
  3. Temporary wooden tree guards and a temporary snow fence boundary shall be installed immediately around each tree impacted by demolition and/or construction and maintained throughout the course of the entire demolition and construction process. Download our Tree Protection Guidelines for more.
  4. The contractor shall take extreme care to protect the root systems of the existing trees. Bulk material, equipment, scaffold footings, or vehicles shall not be stockpiled or parked within the critical root zone (CRZ) of any tree, or within 10 feet of the trunk (whichever is greater). This is done to minimize surface and subsurface root and soil compaction. This applies to all CRZs within or outside the project limit line. Every inch of DBH (diameter breast height) of the tree represents one required radial foot of tree protection.
  5. If stockpiling occurs within the CRZ, a stop work order shall be issued immediately to the NYC Department of Buildings. Additional violations may be issued and may require remedial work to remain within forestry inspector’s prescribed timeframe. Work shall not re-commence until all stockpiled material is removed from the CRZ and tree remediation is satisfied.
  6. If any machinery is operating within the CRZ, the affected area shall be covered with mulch to a depth of at least 12 inches and covered with plywood or metal plates to distribute weight in order to protect roots from damage caused by heavy equipment. Such covering shall be maintained during the course of construction and removed by hand or as specified by the contracted certified arborist or forestry inspector with associated photos reported accordingly. Heat sources, flames, ignition sources, and smoking are prohibited within the CRZ and within the above mentioned mulched area.
  7. When a deficiency in tree protection is determined by a forestry inspector it must be remedied immediately. Failure to correct the deficiency immediately may result in violations and summons.
  8. Any damage to existing trees during construction shall be the contractor’s responsibility. The contractor shall perform remedial work to damaged trees at the contractor's expense; this work shall meet all NYC Parks regulations. Contractor is responsible for obtaining all necessary permits to comply with NYC Parks regulations. Visit our Tree Services page for more resources.
  9. Contractor will contact NYC Parks if any underground infrastructure (gas, water/electric etc.) affects any proposed/existing trees onsite. Project manager is aware that any work done on or within 50 feet of a city tree requires a permit from NYC parks. This includes utility, sidewalk, pruning, or any other work within the CRZ of a tree (within the city right of way) done by the general contractor or any subcontractors. Contractor will be familiar with, and follow NYC Parks' planting and forestry specifications. In  some instances, utilities may not be labeled on proposed site plan. If utilities are unknown, the project manager must amend the plans and request their plans be reapproved by NYC Parks.
  10. The onstruction access route is to be diagrammed and routed to minimally impact any existing trees. Final route shall be established on site and approved by the forestry inspector. Site plans are to be included and amended accordingly when requesting NYC Parks approval.
  11. Roots over one inch in diameter shall not be cut without the written permission of the borough director of forestry.
  12. To best protect tree roots the contractor shall exercise extreme care in removing concrete or asphalt within the CRZ of existing trees. Pavement should be lifted rather than dragged. Any excavation within the CRZ, or elsewhere on site, as indicated on the tree protection plan, shall be done by hand or pneumatic excavation and in the presence of the forestry inspector or contracted certified arborist with associated photos and report to be filed with an NYC Parks forestry inspector. A contractor is to schedule appointment with the forestry inspector accordingly.
  13. The excavation area within the CRZ shall be backfilled immediately and/or roots shall be kept constantly moist with burlap covered with white plastic and checked a minimum of two times a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, for a maximum of 48 hours, until backfill is complete as directed by the director of landscape construction and the resident engineer. If directed, soaker hoses shall be installed to facilitate properly moist conditions. No pooling of water or continuous running water shall occur within the drip line of existing trees or within the tree protection zones other than that during the irrigation process.
  14. If roots are to be exposed for a period greater than 48 hours, the exposed area shall be covered with at least six inches of mulch and maintained moist during the course of construction until the area can be properly backfilled. Photos are to be taken periodically and reported to the forestry inspector by a landscape contractor or a contracted certified arborist.
  15. No runoff or spillage of noxious materials while mixing, placing, or storing construction material shall occur within the tree pit or CRZ. No ponding, eroding, or excessive wetting caused by dewatering operations shall occur within tree pit or critical root zone.
  16. All existing trees being protected on the proposed job site are to be watered 20 gallons once weekly between March 1 and October 30 to best preserve existing trees during the demolition and construction processes. Watering shall be done in a manner that there should not be standing water around the tree.
  17. Unless otherwise noted it is best to keep existing concrete within tree protection zone as long as possible until removal and reinstallation of new sidewalk. Concrete should be left intact throughout the demolition and construction process to prevent further soil compaction on existing tree roots. Other work may be specified by forestry inspector to be done within a prescribed timeframe. Metal grates are to be removed immediately. Cobblestones are to be removed immediately and the void created is to be amended with soil level to the sidewalk. Pit expansion may be required by forestry inspector.
  18. Preparatory pruning work shall be performed only when directed by a forestry inspector. This work shall be performed in accordance with ANSI a300 standards and by a qualified, licensed & insured arborist or tree service company. Contractor is to follow all NYC Parks Forestry permit & work order regulations. Contractor is responsible for scheduling the appointment with forestry inspector.
  19. All new indicated tree pits are to be fully excavated to the dimensions labeled and replaced with new quality topsoil to NYC Parks standards.

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