City eliminates root cause of frustration for homeowners

A tree root causes sidewalk damage. Photo by Junkyardsparkle via Wikimedia Commons.

A tree root causes sidewalk damage. Photo by Junkyardsparkle via Wikimedia Commons.

By David Brand

The city will leaf homeowners alone when it comes to damage that stems from tree roots. 

Owners of one-, two- and three-family buildings will no longer be on the hook for sidewalk damage caused by street trees, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.  

The Department of Transportation and the Parks Department will continue to inspect sidewalk conditions, but it will be the city’s responsibility to fix damage that is exclusively tree-related, like roots that push concrete and make sidewalks uneven. The DOT will also consider 50,000 violations and determine which were based on issues caused only by trees.

“We’re not just fixing broken sidewalks – we’re fixing a broken system,” de Blasio said. “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.”

Several Queens lawmakers in districts characterized by low-density development advocated for the measure.

“Violations to homeowners for sidewalk damage caused by City Trees has been a huge burden to bear,” said Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman. “Homeowners in the 29th Assembly District will be pleased to know that no longer will be violations be imposed on them for city property and that also existing violations will be under review.”

“We are pleased that the Mayor's office is taking action on this issue and providing relief to homeowners by repairing sidewalk damage,” added Assemblymember Michael DenDekker. 

Councilmember Peter Koo, chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, said the measure was “welcome news” for Queens homeowners forced to “pay for tree damage that is largely out of their control.”