De Blasio, Heastie Announce City to Stop Issuing Sidewalk Violations for Damage Caused by Street Trees

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Heastie announced today the City will no longer issue violations to homeowners for sidewalk damage caused by City trees. The City will also ramp up sidewalk repairs under the Trees & Sidewalks program to address 5,500 priority sites over the next three years.

“We’re not just fixing broken sidewalks – we’re fixing a broken system,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We tripled funding for tree related sidewalk repair, but homeowners were still on the hook for problems they didn’t create. As a homeowner, I know how frustrating that is. Now, if a street tree causes damage, we’re taking care of it.”

“This has been a huge quality of life concern for my constituents who have invested their savings in purchasing a home, only to be hit with this liability through no fault of their own. The problems associated with these trees became very apparent as I have been knocking on doors and visiting with constituents,” said Carl E. Heastie, Speaker of the New York State Assembly. “I am glad that the Mayor de Blasio has recognized this issue and together we have developed a solution to take the burden off these homeowners.”

Tree Work Hub (NYC Parks)

The City will stop imposing liens on one, two and three family properties that have sidewalk damage caused solely by City trees. DOT and the Parks Department will still inspect for dangerous sidewalk conditions, but the City, not the homeowner, will be responsible for fixing them if they are exclusively tree related.

DOT will review the 50,000 existing notices of violation to determine which were caused exclusively by street trees and cancel the lien for any that meets the criteria. If the homeowner of the qualifying property is selling or refinancing their home, the City will expedite this re- evaluation.

“Our more than 650,000 street trees are a tremendous resource to the city, but over the decades root growth has caused conflicts on our city’s sidewalks,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “Our plan to repair all backlogged sites over the next three years, combined with new policies around sidewalk violations, will ensure that trees remain a boon to New Yorkers and not a burden. We’re thankful for the support from Mayor de Blasio and our partnership with NYC DOT to find a path forward on this issue.”

“DOT works with property owners to make our sidewalks safe, but when City-owned tree roots are the culprit, homeowners should not be liable,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “We will review our records for violations and liens that can be cancelled as we work closely with Parks on this common sense initiative.”

In 2005, the Parks’ Department “Trees & Sidewalks” program was created to benefit homeowners of one to three family homes by repairing severely damaged sidewalks impacted by street tree growth. Today’s announcement builds upon the $16 million funding increase for the Trees and Sidewalk Repair Program in 2017. This tripled available funding and expanded Parks’ capacity to conduct inspections and sidewalk repair. There are approximately 5,500 high priority damaged sites that will be repaired by the end of FY ‘22. After that, the worst sidewalk conditions caused by street trees will be repaired within 12 months.

To meet increased need, the Parks Department has worked to build capacity and attract more contractors by increasing their solicitation outreach; offering varied contract sizes; minimizing contract requirements to the extent possible; and improving site densities.

“Representing a district that has a significant amount of homeowners, this announcement is welcome news; especially to homeowners that far too often face the issue of sidewalk damage caused by city-owned trees, due to no fault of their own. Homeowners already face heavy burdens and responsibilities in maintaining their property, and this measure has the potential to provide significant economic relief and allow property owners to focus on other necessary maintenance for their homes.  I applaud Speaker Heastie and Mayor de Blasio for their initiative in aiding homeowners by no longer issuing violations for sidewalk damage caused by city trees, as well as rapidly accelerating sidewalk repairs,” said State Senator Jamaal Bailey.

“Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to halt imposing sidewalk violation liens on one-, two- and three-family properties that have been caused solely by City trees is a great relief to constituents in the tree-lined communities I represent. This agreement will address the delicate balance between the urgent need for urban trees and the frustrated homeowners who have to deal with the insurance liability and costly repairs encumbered on them when a mature tree’s roots break or lift their sidewalk. The City’s willingness to accept responsibility will go a long way in relieving the anxiety many property owners feel when a city tree is planted in front of their homes,” said Assembly Member Michael Benedetto.

View a map of all sidewalk inspections and upcoming repairs here and request an inspection through the Trees & Sidewalks program here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email