Following three articles on this topic earlier in May, which I blogged about here, and an earlier piece I wrote after seeing tree pruners at work in Riverside Park, the NY Times has published another revealing article about tree care in New York City, or more accurately the decline of tree care in the city. While the Bloomberg administration has commendably pledged to plant one million trees before it leaves office at the end of 2013–and it claims to be halfway to that goal–the budget for maintaining and pruning the city’s existing trees has fallen drastically. Reporter Lisa W. Foderaro writes that the city’s tree-tending
“work force has shrunk, however, to 92 pruners and climbers today from 112 five years ago. The budget for street-tree care has fallen more sharply. The 600,000 trees on the city’s streets are largely maintained by outside tree-service contractors. Because of budget cuts, the pruning rotation has been stretched, to every 15 years from once every 7 years in 2008. During that time, the budget for street-tree pruning contracts fell to $1.4 million from $4.7 million.”
In the city’s parks, where hazards posed by untended trees often go undetected, she reports that
“Arborists and tree-care experts say that New York City could significantly improve public safety by ensuring that the workers who evaluate trees understand the warning signs of decay and failure.”
Despite the promise of greater safety such training offers, she reports on the decline of the tree care budget even while multi-million dollar damage awards continue to be paid to civil litigants, after fatalities and serious injuries occur. The city has a legal and moral responsibility to keep its inhabitants and visitors safe, within reasonable limits. While all urban hazard cannot be eliminated from our urban midst, the ones that are avoidable should be prevented to the maximum extent possible; when New York City fails to do so–even as reasonable safeguards are within reach–it is a moral and ethical failing. I cannot understand how the Mayor’s office allows this to continue. I will call my city councilperson to request that they restore the budget for tree care. Any other course is just stupid and negligent.