Queens councilman introduces bill to create Downed Tree Task Force

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Over 9,000 downed tree complaints in Queens were made to the New York City Parks Department following Tropical Storm Isaias on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (Photo by Dean Moses)

To improve the health of trees in New York City, Councilman Peter Koo introduced a package of legislation to create a Downed Tree Task Force and to improve tree inspection and reporting requirements. 

According to Koo, fallen trees and tree limbs pose significant dangers to New Yorkers during severe weather events. 

“Without regular inspections, the same trees that add so much character and beauty to our neighborhoods can cause mass destruction. Falling trees and limbs can destroy homes, cars, even lives,” Koo said. 

Koo’s first bill would create a Downed Tree Task Force to coordinate the safe removal of fallen trees and tree limbs due to a severe weather event. The task force will be comprised of city agencies that will be responsible for establishing tree removal protocols and responding during emergencies. The task force would meet twice per year to review and propose changes to such tree removal protocols.

The second bill would require the Parks Department to conduct tree inspections and health assessments and to post the results online. During tree inspections, Parks would determine if there are health issues and post on its website criteria when inspections are performed. 

The Parks Department will submit an annual report that will include the total number and location of trees inspected; result of inspection and action taken; number and location of trees for which an inspection was requested through 311 or other means; date of each tree inspection request; reason for request; action taken by the Parks Department in response to inspection request; and the date action was taken. There will also be a tree inspection map on Parks Department website that shows the results of each inspection.

In August 2020, when tens of thousands of New Yorkers were left without power following Tropical Storm Isaias, trees — big and small — came crashing down across Queens. Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency to help with cleanup and power restoration.

In all, the New York City Parks Department received over 9,000 reports of downed trees in the borough and a total of 20,500 reports of tree damage citywide. 

Fallen trees blocked roadways, snagged power lines, crashed into cars and killed a man in Briarwood who was sitting in a vehicle when a tree landed on top of it.

With approximately 9,317 reports of downed trees, Queens had by far the most tree damage when compared with the other four boroughs. In Brooklyn, 5,761 reports were made; in Staten Island there were 2,151 reports made; in the Bronx, 2,148 reports were made; and in Manhattan there were 1,205 reports of tree damage, according to the Parks Department.