In the 1970s a walk through Central Park was rife with potential encounters with muggers and thugs. Today in New York City, the greatest threat posed by a walk in the park could very well be a limb falling from a tree.
In the five years ending in 2011, 51 people were hurt by trees (including two who were killed) on New York City streets and in parks. In the last decade there have been 10 lawsuits filed against New York City stemming from deaths or injuries caused by falling limbs or branches. Most of these have been settled quietly by the city, with many millions of dollars paid in damage claims.
At the center of the lawsuits is the argument that the city hasn’t been paying attention to its rotting and neglected trees. It’s been a time of deep cutbacks in funding for tree care and safety, and the trees are noticing.
According to an article in The New York Times: Public records and interviews with outside experts and parks officials depict an overstretched and haphazard system of tree inspections and care, one in which the crucial job of spotting dangers can be left to untrained workers, and repairs and pruning are delayed to save money.
The obvious consideration is, wouldn’t it make sense for the city to be spending money on tree care rather than lawsuits stemming from their neglect?
Who’s looking out for the trees?
Cities need trees. They remove air pollution, conserve water and reduce soil erosion, fight the atmospheric greenhouse effect, save energy, modify local climates, and the list goes on. And just as cities need trees, trees need care.
Yet trees on New York CIty streets receive pruning only about every 15 years, down from every seven years, which was the practice until recently. The budget to trim trees has been reduced to $1.45 million from $4.7 million over the last five years.
As it stands, there are roughly 2.5 million trees in the city’s parks and on its streets. The struggle to properly care for them will only become more daunting: New York City is only halfway to its goal of planting a million more trees. While the additional trees are greatly welcomed by city residents and fauna alike, how will they be cared for?
As homeowners and stewards of private gardens are responsible for the trees they plant, why should the city be any different?
Here are a few ways you can help the trees around you: