2010-05-26 / Front Page

Million Tree Plantings Raise Maintenance Questions

By Liz Goff

Queens home and business owners are seeking answers to questions regarding maintenance of trees planted recently under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “Million Tree” incentive.

If the city plants a tree or trees by digging up a sidewalk, the property owner is responsible for “simple maintenance” for one year after planting.

Simple Maintenance includes soil or mulch replacement, cleaning of tree bed and/or watering, when necessary.

Anyone with an older street tree on their property (one year old and up), can call 311 for all required maintenance, including pruning, root cutting, soil or mulch replacement and other “repairs” as necessary.

If the street tree has roots that are growing out of the sidewalk and breaking the cement, call 311 to ask for a Forestry crew to cut back the roots.
In many cases, workers will break open the sidewalk around the tree to create a larger “tree cut” that will allow the roots to grow without causing sidewalk damage, a Parks Department spokesperson said. If the work results in damage to the sidewalk, the property owner is responsible to repair the damage, the spokesperson said.

The property owner may insist that the city repair the damage, if he or she can prove that the damage was caused by city tree maintenance crews. Proof should include before and after photos, along with photos and documentation showing how the damage occurred.

If the sidewalk is not repaired in a timely fashion, the property owner may be subject to a fine issued by the Department of Buildings.

Department of Parks officials said the agency currently has no funds for the removal of tree stumps from city sidewalks.

Officials said workers would come out on request to cut down dead or dangerous trees but the cash-strapped agency will not remove the tree stump from the sidewalk after the tree is cut down.

In cases where the stump is impeding pedestrian traffic or causing damage that could lead to accidental fall or injury, the property owner must pay to have the stump removed.

Agency sources said tree stump removal is an expensive proposition, so many property owners are simply refusing to pay a landscaper to dig out the stumps.

The owner of property on 36th Avenue near 32nd Street in Long Island City is currently engaged in a standoff with the city, hoping to force Forestry Services to dig up and remove a huge tree stump that takes up one-third of the sidewalk. Sources said the property owner is also demanding that the city repair extensive sidewalk damage caused by the tree stump.

A spokesperson for the city Department of Parks Forestry Services said there is currently a waiting period of approximately three years from the date a request for maintenance is filed until a crew arrives. The backlog is due to a shortage of workers resulting from layoffs, officials said.

The City Department of Parks is urging property owners to sign up for instruction on how to maintain street trees, including pruning, root maintenance, soil enhancement and other maintenance.

Interested property owners should call 311 for information or to sign up for the free tree maintenance classes. People who successfully complete the course will be issued a certificate stating they are trained in tree maintenance.

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