Mayor’s New Tree Regs Fall On Homeowners

“At the very least, if the mayor is going to require homeowners to have street trees, the city should pick up the tab,” Councilman Tony Avella said.

Speaking at a press conference in Bayside on Friday, the mayoral candidate called attention to inherent flaws in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed tree planting amendments for PlaNYC 2030.

He pointed out that while new trees were mandatory, the plan failed to protect existing mature trees.

Avella was joined in the shade of an enormous sycamore tree by urban planner Paul Graziano and local civic leaders. They called for change to the Department of City Planning’s newly proposed Street Tree Planting Text Amendment that would shift the financial burden of tree planting regulations from homeowners to the city.

Under the mayor’s proposed amendment, planting of street trees would be required in all zoning districts for all new development, in all major enlargements and certain conversions between commercial, residential, community facility or manufacturing uses.

Speakers at the press conference included Graziano, Bob Holden, Juniper Park Civic Association president; Mel Siegel, Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association president; and Eliot Socci, Douglaston Civic Association president. All agreed that the suggested amendments were inconsistent and placed too heavy a financial burden on homeowners.

Graziano recounted nightmare scenarios under existing regulations governing trees on city land. “Homeowners can’t remove the trees even if they’re dead, and the city can take months to prune or remove dangerous trees and limbs,” he said.

He told those gathered that a limb had died on a tree more than 15 feet from his building. “The dead branch fell causing damage, but we weren’t allowed to remove it.”

Graziano pointed out that the city had lost 20 percent of its tree cover in the last decade, but most of the trees lost were on private property.

Avella said that the proposed laws are inconsistent—on the one hand they require new trees to be planted, on the other they provide no protection or incentive for homeowners to protect old-growth trees.

He pointed to the tree overhead and said, “This will probably go.” He added that a mature tree like the sycamore provides much more shade and noise protection than new trees.

Avella suggested it made no sense to replace old trees with new ones, and that the city should provide incentives for homeowners to save old-growth trees wherever possible.

“I agree with the mayor and DCP that we need to preserve and enhance green space in New York City,” he said.

As an alternative to forcing residents to accept and pay for trees he suggested, “We should offer incentives to those homeowners that choose to preserve older trees on their property.” He called on the city to continue the voluntary planting request program.

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