BY ELIZABETH COSTIGAN
Throughout Queens, uprooted sidewalks have long provided homeowners with a headache and a safety hazard. Many residents aren’t aware, however, that if tree roots damaged sidewalks, it’s the city’s responsibility, not local residents, to cover the damage and repair cost.
Mayor Bill de Blasio collaborated with Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski to bring light to NYC Parks’ Trees and Sidewalks program during a visit to Whitestone on July 20. This program helps homeowners repair severe damage caused by the root growth of street trees.
“Our nearly 700,000 street trees beautify our neighborhoods, clean our air, and cool our environment. But as they grow, trees can also come into conflict with city sidewalks, creating inconvenient or even dangerous conditions. Trees and Sidewalks supports homeowners by assisting them with sidewalk repairs – and this significant funding increase will make this program even more powerful,” said de Blasio.
An additional $16 million in funding has been added to the program. This will cover costs to conduct inspections and fix damaged sidewalks, bringing the total funding to a grand sum of $21.75 million (in funding the FY18 budget). This is more than triple the budget compared to the previous year’s allotment.
“This funding will go a long way towards providing relief to homeowners whose sidewalks have been damaged by growing tree roots, as well as improving safety for pedestrians throughout Queens,” said Councilman Paul Vallone. “This has been a concern for many of my constituents and now the Parks Department is better equipped to address these concerns in a quick and efficient manner.”
Homeowners may request to enlist in the program by calling 311 or filling out an online form. NYC Parks foresters then examine the site, assess damages, and assign it a priority rating based on criteria. The specifics including the vertical lift of the sidewalk, the number of damaged flagstones, the volume of traffic on and width of the sidewalk, and tree condition. Repairs may include tree bed expansion, adjustment of sidewalk grade, strengthening sidewalk materials, and improving drainage.