NYC Utility Work and Trees: Using an Arborist to Avoid Violations
August 23, 2012

Trees are vital components of the infrastructure of New York City and the five boroughs. As such, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), which has jurisdiction over all trees growing in the public right-of-way, including trees along streets, parkways, and in City park, has strict guidelines on how to approach construction in the vicinity of a tree and it’s root structure. The jurisdiction of the DPR does not end at the sidewalk and may extend across a front yard all the way to the building line but usually within 15’ of the base of the tree however, each project may be subject to change. Any landlord, homeowner or utility company (such as a water main & sewer contractor) intending to do work in the proximity of a street tree are required to hire a certified ISA Certified Consulting Arborist (CA) , who acts as a liaison between the DPR and the person or company doing the work. So, what does a Consulting Arborist do and what regulations and guidelines are they responsible for enforcing?

  1. Dripline

    A CA ensures that any construction that occurs adjacent to or under the dripline of a City tree is performed according to the standards of DPR.   A DRIPLINE is defined as:

  2. The outer most leaves on a tree defines its dripline and the ground within the dripline is known as the drip zone; also defined as the area defined by the outermost circumference of a tree canopy.
  3. To ensure that all trees, including their branches, trunks and root systems, must be protected from vehicles, equipment, and heavy materials during the course of work. Because water main repair or installation requires a large amount of excavation, this is a very important guideline and is a major source of violations and fines for contractors who do not use a veteran CA and who do not have a good knowledge of the DPR guidelines. Here at Harris, we have received a violation that was later overturned because we followed the guidelines, we had a certified CA who documented the worksite with photos.
  4. Soil disturbance should be avoided. The only way to ensure that this feature of the guidelines is followed is to have a veteran crew who know how to excavate without excess soil disturbance. At Harris all field workers have been trained in accordance with the DPR guidelines which is a major factor in our ability to follow work within the estimated timeframe of all jobs and while avoiding all tree violations.
  5. Physical Barriers may be required to quadron off access to a tree during the contracting process.

For information on obtaining a permit to work in an area with tree coverage, please see PART II of this Article on “NYC Forrestry Protocol and Permitting for Construction Work” Source: Source: