Council Bill Proposes Increased Safety and Responsiveness Requirements for Tree Risk Management

Image credit: New York City Council.

On September 14, 2023, New York City Council Member James Gennaro introduced Int. 1169 to set stricter safety standards, timelines, and procedures under the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Tree Risk Management Program. The bill amends Local Law 20 – passed by the City Council on January 9, 2022 – that governs tree inspection and health assessments by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Pursuant to Local Law 20, a member of the general public may contact the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Tree Risk Management Program through its website, app, or the 311 hotline, if that member believes that a tree presents a safety risk on a City street or public park.

Int. 1169 would create more detailed definitions, increase the timeliness of inspections, and require more robust reporting requirements for the Department of Parks and Recreation. For example, Int. 1169 would separate tree-related risks into four (4) levels: extreme, high, moderate, and low-risk. Moreover, Int. 1169 would require the Department of Parks and Recreation to respond more quickly to public requests that present ‘extreme’ or ‘high risk’ – no later than 7 and 28 days, respectively – versus those that present ‘moderate’ or ‘low risk.’ Furthermore, Int. 1169 would mandate more types of information within the Department of Parks and Recreation’s annual report, including the number of pending requests and the corresponding risk level of each request. Local Law 20 currently does not include those definitions, timeframes, and standards for use by the workers in the Tree Risk Management Program.

Council Member Gennaro outlined four broad goals for Int. 1169, in line with his focus on environmental and sustainability policy. First, Int. 1169 would ease the backlog of ‘moderate’ and ‘low risk’ public requests by prioritizing those trees that present ‘extreme’ or ‘high risk.’ Second, Int. 1169 would increase routine inspections of all trees by implementing more expansive and detailed standards overall. Third, Int. 1169 would strengthen transparency in the Department of Parks and Recreation by tracking its data patterns across the four levels of risk. Finally, Int. 1169 would create clearer expectations for members of the general public by setting specific, risk-based timeframes for responses to their requests.

CityLand reached out to Council Member Gennaro’s office for comment but has not received a response. Int. 1169 has been referred to the Committee on Parks and Recreation for further consideration.

By: Jordan Wilner (Jordan is a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)

CC: Stated Meeting, Int. 1169 – 2023 (September 14, 2023.)



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