Queens Council Member proposes a new bill to have NYC DOT and Parks team-up for tree care

Photo by Anthony Medina

The placement of tree guards across New York City could soon fall under the joint responsibility of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the city’s Parks Department if a new bill introduced by Council Member Robert Holden is signed into law.

Holden, who represents District-30 in City Council, introduced several pieces of legislation earlier this month, including a bill (Int. 882) that would require the DOT to place and maintain tree guards across city neighborhoods.

The installation of tree guards, made of various materials such as metal, wood, and plastic, are found at the base of many city trees to protect them from damage, according to NYC Parks. Although tree guards are often placed by homeowners, or through the parks department, the upkeep of those guards often goes unattended, according to Holden. 

“We were told that parks will install them, but then I said, ‘Who fixes them?,” Holden said to QNS, explaining that there are existing maintenance issues with city trees and improperly installed tree guards.

Holden went on to say that improper tree guards often prevent car owners from opening their doors when parking in the street and don’t properly protect the evergreens from physical damage. 

Additional information from NYC Parks reveals that in addition to protecting trees from physical damage, tree guards are commonly used to reduce soil compaction, prevent pet waste from entering the tree pit, and help thwart rodent and invasive species from making tree pits their home.

Tree guards could also help eliminate the problematic population of rodents that burrow in tree pits. NYC Rat Czar Kathleen Corradi, who leads the battle against rats in the city, visited Ridgewood last year to educate residents on how to eliminate rat nests in tree pits.

Since last year, the city has witnessed a record number of trees taking root. In 2023, Parks announced the highest tree planting total in six years, with expectations for even more growth in the coming year.

As the number of newly planted trees across the city has helped combat local environmental issues, such as reducing the urban heat island effect and providing better air quality, some critics of the increased number of trees say it’s the city’s lack of timely tree maintenance that has become problematic.

“It’s one of those bureaucratic snafus we uncovered,” Holden said.

The process to obtain the proper permits to place a tree guard around a city tree is still required through NYC Parks, and it’s often placed on local elected officials to get them installed. Holden says his legislation also focuses on using taxpayer’s funds to answer quality-of-life concerns.

The Parks Department, already facing millions of dollars in budget cuts, has seen a decrease in employment numbers, and the demand from an active urban environment is something Holden says needs to be rectified by having other city agencies, especially the DOT, step in.