State Senator Tony Avella in front of a tree a homeowner could prune if new new regulations were adopted.
New Yorkers could soon be able to pull those annoying hanging branches out of their way.
Last Thursday, State Senator Tony Avella discussed his proposed legislation to allow homeowners to prune obstructive tree branches “within their reach.” Currently, it’s illegal for residents to touch or remove tree branches, which belong to the city.
Standing on a residential sidewalk near his Bayside district office, Avella found the perfect example of a hanging tree branch that blocks the walkway.
“Somebody can walk into it,” he said. “I can't touch that. If I touch that, or if a property owner touches it, it’s a huge fine.”
Usually, the Parks Department takes care of tree pruning. However, Avella said it typically takes three to five days to get it done, whereas a homeowner could do it on the spot.
His legislation would empower residents to take it down themselves, as long as they don’t use a ladder or other devices to aid their reach.
“The bill is just to make it easy for something like this, something that’s low-hanging that’s blocking pedestrian traffic,” Avella said, pointing to the branch. “But only on something within reach.”
The lawmaker, who first introduced the bill in 2015, said he heard the complaints from constituents years ago. The legislation was suggested at a civic association meeting.
However, the bill hasn’t garnered any support and doesn’t have an Assembly sponsor. It’s stuck in committee.
“I just can’t get it passed, mainly because of the opposition from the city,” he said.
Avella added that he’s willing to adjust the legislation to include possible oversight if the city would open dialogue with him about the bill.
In response, a Parks spokesperson said New Yorkers who are interested in tree pruning can check out the Citizen Pruner Program, offered by Tree New York. The program trains residents as volunteers on who is allowed to prune tree limbs according to city regulations. It also teaches residents how to use the right tools, proper pruning techniques, and other safety guidelines.
Property owner can also apply for a tree work permit to have a contractor do the work, the spokesperson said.
This isn’t the first time Avella has criticized the city for its tree-related programs. Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an additional $16 million in the city’s Trees and Sidewalks program that helps homeowners repair sidewalks damaged by root growth of street trees.
Avella, a former mayoral challenger, responded with a statement saying the funding doesn’t go far enough. He laid out a seven-point plan that includes codifying the Tree and Sidewalk Repair program into law, changing the city’s pruning cycle to three to five years, eliminating the stump removal backlog, and giving homeowners the option of opting out of receiving a city tree.
“It is nice that the mayor has allocated additional money for the Tree and Sidewalk Repair program, but given that he has been in office for three and a half years and is only just addressing this issue now is sad,” Avella said in July. “Mr. Mayor, you need to do more.”