From the NY Times:
“It seems like every time someone moves onto the block, they begin cutting down trees,” said Ms. Sunshine, 38, a stay-at-home mother of a 2-year-old girl. Three neighbors have deforested parts of their yards in the past two years, she said.
“I’m not a nosy neighbor, but every time I hear the saws, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, there it is again,’ ” she said. “These trees were not sick or a safety hazard; these people just wanted to rearrange the landscape. I thought, ‘If this continues, what’s Yorktown going to look like in 30 years, the Lower East Side?’ ”
Ms. Sunshine never confronted her neighbors, but she joined a group of like-minded residents who are pushing for a town ordinance requiring property owners to get approval before removing certain trees on their property.
Protecting trees on public land and parkland, and on property under development, is standard in municipalities in the New York area. But more local governments — Larchmont and Rye in Westchester County, and Chatham, Madison and Rutherford in New Jersey, to name a few — have considered or are debating more controversial restrictions on what homeowners can do with the trees on their own property.
Protecting the tree canopy and preventing soil erosion and flooding — as well as preserving a town’s character — are among the aims of the rules.
In many places, these ordinances were a backlash to the building boom that preceded the recession, when developers were clear-cutting many lots for housing.
As a result of the new regulation of private trees, homeowners in many municipalities who assume they can chop impulsively and ask questions later may have to rethink their plans. Or they may have to at least familiarize themselves with the intricacies of their town codes to prove that a candidate for cutting is not a specimen that merits government protection. The criteria include the age and species of the tree, as well as arboreal intricacies like D.B.H. (diameter at breast height).
Fines and penalties for failing to obtain a tree removal permit can be stiff. In Yorktown Heights, for example, the proposed fines for violators are laid out in detail: up to $250 a tree, plus $25 for each inch of tree diameter up to 18 inches, measured at the stump. The fine rate would be increased for bigger trees, and multiple offenders could face a $1,500 civil penalty, doubled fines or, in some cases, jail.