NYC Utility Work and Trees Part 2 – NYC Forestry Protocol and Permitting for Construction Work
Part II of the 2 part Series on NYC Utility Work and Trees. See Part I here
In order to successfully complete a water main, utility, construction or excavation project without receiving a ticket for a violation of NYC Forrestry rules set by the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the contractor must hire a reputable ISA Certified Consulting Arborist (CA) to act as a liaison to the city and ensure that all guidelines are strictly enforced. The CA shall be involved in all projects that impact trees during the planning/design and construction phases. This work shall include the following steps:
The utility company identifies that their proposed work involves working under the dripline of a City tree and has hired a CA. The utility company must give the CA as much notice as reasonably possible.
The CA will provide the appropriate DPR Borough Forestry Manager (BFM) or his designated representative with a survey of all the trees impacted by the planned construction work. This survey provides the basic information needed for a forestry permit and shall include the following:
– Tree Information Utility Information
– Species of each tree
– Size of each tree
– Condition of each tree (good, fair, poor)
– Location of each tree (building address)
– Construction methods for work under tree dripline (to comply with best practices for tree protection)
– Pruning method if required for overhead clearance (should include deadwood > 1 inch and split/hanging limb removal)
– General tree protection methods
– If utility company is requesting the tree’s removal due to unavoidable conflict with planned construction project
– Type of each utility service
– Size and depth of each utility service
– Distance of each service from tree (pipe center to tree center on a horizontal plane)|
– Duration of entire construction project (days), including predicted time between utility work and final pavement restoration
Digital photos should be taken as part of the survey phase as needed to document trees prior to construction. The CA shall inform DPR about any dead, dying or dangerous trees identified during this process. Here are some example photos from a Harris worksite:
It is a good idea to listen to your Borough Forrestry Manager and CA for any instructions on how to proceed when working in an area that has trees, or else it is highly likely that you can be fined for an unseen problem. If you need to remove a tree, it is critical that you follow DPR guidelines.
Here is a summary of the guidelines as defined by the NYC DPR:
● Tree removal needs its own permit, and a request can be made through the DPR website. The CA must explain why the tree is being removed and provide supporting documentation such as construction drawings, site logistics, etc. It is important to note that the DPR will always look for a way to save a tree when reviewing the application, so be prepared for some back and forth.
● If there is an unavoidable conflict and a tree must be removed, then DPR determines if the tree is a suitable candidate for transplant. “Suitable” means that the tree has a very good chance for successful transplant and normal development. The criteria is based on the tree’s rootball which is measured as:
○ 1 foot of rootball diameter for every inch diameter of the tree stem
● The contractor selected to move the tree must be bonded for the tree’s value as set by the DPR
● If the tree cannot be transplanted then the DPR will set a value based on the scoring system in the Guide for Plant Appraisal and this must be paid to the DPR as a replacement value.
Here at Harris Water Main and Sewer Contractors, we often find ourselves in the situation where emergency work must be done and a quick solution for work near a tree’s dripline is necessary. The DPR understands that in the case of emergencies, certain work needs to be completed immediately to safeguard people and property. However, the utility company needs to ensure that any City trees impacted by emergency work are not unnecessarily damaged or left in an unsafe condition as a result of the construction. The following guidelines shall be considered in the case of emergencies (Source: http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_permits_and_applications/images_and_pdfs/Utilities_Protocol.pdf) : 1. The Emergency response team shall assess if the work will likely damage a City tree. If so, the CA must be made aware of the situation as soon as reasonably possible.
2. The CA must attempt to get to the site as soon as possible and advise the construction team on how to mitigate potential tree damage. The CA must also contact DPR immediately by calling the BFM if the situation occurs during normal working hours or by calling 311 if outside of these times.
3. If the tree(s) are unstable then the CA should either arrange for the tree(s) to be made safe or secure the site until DPR can respond to the emergency.
4. The CA must endeavor at all times to record the tree damage and construction work in progress so DPR can fully understand and document the incident.
5. The CA should supply DPR with a full report including a tree survey listing all damage and any required remedial tree work.
6. DPR will issue a permit to complete any necessary remedial work if required.
7. The CA shall notify DPR as to the completion of the project in order for DPR to conduct a final