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Homeowners No Longer Face Violations for Sidewalk Damage Caused by Street Trees

Mayor’s Office

Sept. 11, 2019 By Allie Griffin

Homeowners will no longer be penalized for sidewalk damage caused by city trees, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

Previously if a sidewalk in front of a home was damaged by a tree’s roots, the homeowner would be notified by the city and a lien would be issued against the property. The lien would prevent the owner from selling or refinancing a home until the sidewalk was repaired.

Many homeowners with this issue had to pay private contractors out of pocket to get the sidewalks fixed in a timely matter. While the city would make the repairs without cost to the homeowner, often it would take too long before the repairs were made.

Therefore, those trying to sell their homes with a lien were often forced to pay contractors to get the problem squared away.

There are about 50,000 existing broken sidewalk violations currently and the Department of Transportation will review each one to determine if the damage was caused solely by street trees and will then cancel the liens for any that meet the criteria.

The change in policy specifically provides relief to the owners of one, two and three family properties where there is sidewalk damage caused solely by city trees.

The DOT and the Parks Department will continue to inspect for dangerous sidewalk conditions, but the city, not the homeowner will be responsible for fixing them if they are exclusively tree-related, according to the announcement.

Thanks to the announcement, homeowners will be able to sell their homes without having to deal with the city should an adjacent sidewalk be damaged by a tree. However, those who have paid contractors to do the work in the past will not be compensated by the city, the mayor said.

“For nearly six years my office has fielded relentless complaints about liens placed on homes because of a sidewalk cracked by City tree roots,” Council Member Costa Constantinides said. “I’m glad to see today that a bad status quo is changing and the government is taking ownership where it should have all along.”

The city also pledged to speed up its sidewalk repair program to address 5,500 high priority sites over the next three years.

In June, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that it took more than a year or 419 days on average for the Parks Department to fix a tree-damaged sidewalk after it was inspected in an audit of the agency.

According to the mayor’s office, the Parks Department will repair the more than 5,000 damages sites by the end of FY ‘22 and within the year following, the worst sidewalk conditions caused by street trees will be repaired.

“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.”

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