NYC Laws Regarding Tree Removal

By Richard Daub

In a city of over 8 million people where there seems hardly enough room for the people, let alone the trees, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced a plan to plant a million new trees in the city. Despite this initiative, however, it is still necessary to have some trees removed, particularly those that are sick and dying. It is not lawful for residents to remove trees on their own without a permit, but the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has made it fairly simple to request a removal.

Tree removal on city property

New York City does not claim responsibility for trees that are located on or have fallen on privately owned property. Residents may remove trees from their own private property without the city's permission.

Regarding trees on city property, there are a couple of ways to request that a tree be removed. To do so online, you will need to submit a Forestry Service request on the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation website at gis.nyc.gov/parks/forms. If you are in New York City, you can also call 311. From outside of the city you can call 212-NEW-YORK.

Reasons to have a tree removed

The main reasons to remove a tree from New York City property are: if the tree is dying or is already dead; if a large branch or a limb has fallen off the tree; if the tree is leaning or uprooted and may fall over; if the trunk has been split; or if the tree is simply in poor condition.

Unauthorized removal or work

Residents are not permitted to work on a tree located on city property without a permit from the Department of Parks and Recreation. This includes curbside trees located in front of private residences, including an area within 50 feet of the tree. This work also includes pruning, installation of a driveway, and the hanging of holiday lights. Doing any of these things without a permit is considered a misdemeanor that could result in a fine of $15,000 and a year in jail.

Stump removal

Reporting of tree stumps is recorded by the city, but they are not automatically removed. Removal of stumps by the city is dependent on the amount of funding available for such tasks. In recording the site of a tree stump, the location is also added to the list of possible sites for new tree planting by the city.

About the Author

Richard Daub is a professional journalist based in New York City and the author of three books: "Pork Chops and Subway Cars" (a collection of essays); "Above the Glamour" (a biography); and "Circle in the Weeds" (a novel). More about Daub and his work can be found on his website, www.RichardDaub.com.