Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Big payouts for falling tree limbs

From the NY Times:

Ms. Handwerker, a 29-year-old social worker, survived the July 2007 accident with grievous injuries, and sued. Her lawyers pieced together evidence that untrained parks workers had missed signs that the elm was rotting — even though the 80-foot tree, one of the biggest in New York City, had sent limbs crashing down before. The city settled in February, paying $4 million.

Ms. Handwerker’s suit is just one of at least 10 stemming from deaths or injuries caused by falling limbs and branches in New York City that were quietly resolved over the last 10 years, or are now winding their way through the courts. The city has paid millions of dollars in damage claims, with far more expected. It all comes at a time of steep cutbacks in the amount of money the city dedicates to tree care and safety. Lawyers and investigators hired by the victims have gathered parks records, taken sworn testimony from city officials and parks workers, and hired tree-care experts to review city procedures. The collected evidence, taken together with public records and interviews with outside experts and parks officials, depicts 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.

At the center of many of the cases is a simple question: how much responsibility does the city have for protecting people who pass beneath its graceful elms, oaks and maples? Lawyers for the injured and dead have argued for more, while lawyers for the city have argued for less; in at least two recent cases, the city’s position has been rejected by appeals courts.

City lawyers have aggressively fought several of the cases, denying blame in what they called tragic accidents. They argued that the city was not required to regularly conduct state-of-the-art inspections to determine whether trees were rotting or disease-ridden.

New York effectively has two tree-care systems, one for Central Park, with its mix of private and public financing, and one for the rest of the city.


Anonymous said...

my neighbor just spent $1,500 in Whitestone to get the dangerous dead branches trimmed off a tree in Whitestone. He had been complaining for years and the City did nothhing. Howver, they did tell him he could not take the tree down as it was on the curb.

Anonymous said...

to comment #1--did your neighbor have the permit to get that tree trimmed ?
LOL--be BIG trouble if someone somehow noticed.

nyc treats these trees like the druids did--they're sacred .
They don't maintain them,their trees destroy your sidewalk and sewer lines leading to summonses and bills to roto router and the branches and limbs come down etc
Your uneven and cracked sidewalks might even lead to a nasty slip and fall case as well even though the cracks are still small and not YET a violation BUT in court,who's at fault ? the city ? LOL.

yeah,trees are nice but either the city maintains them,or give the homeowners the right to trim them and on city property get bids from private contractors or even get a deal with some program that trains the tree surgeons.

Anonymous said...

NYC will kill hundreds of thousands of sea birds but won't touch a giant sequoia on two feet of soil ready to topple onto a neighborhood house. What a screwy place.

Ned said...

Hmmm...This looks like a shill "handed" to these reporters from the mayor’s press secretary) possibly for current and future damage control.
It reads EXACTLY the "rotten timbers" bullshit recently used in Great Neck Long Island. Coming soon "emergency cut downs"--no permits or paperwork needed.
The city and Asian population does not want to maintain trees. It sure looks like a legal statute is on it's way making it easier for the city or homeowner to claim "Rotten timbers" remove a whole tree and haul away the evidence.

Queens Tree Service said...

Yea, the city is very screwey with this type of stuff. It's a shame, there's so much work out there that needs to be done on the trees. So much pruning and maintenance but I guess Bloomberg has other places the money needs to go into. And i'm not just talking about central park, i'm speaking of trees that line the sidewalks where you and the rest of us walk. It always seems like they never make a change or do anything drastic until a tree or branch falls and kills somebody. Remember what happened last summer with the kid at the Bronx Zoo?

Anonymous said...

Anon2 according to the tree service, the price was 1500 because they needed a permit.

Anonymous said...

Tree limbs are a major factor in elevating our electrical costs so we had better put the wires underground a lot faster.

Anonymous said...

Next time you tree huggers want to save a giant street tree, make sure you hug it while it's falling over!

Anonymous said...

Pruning permits are free. Your contractor scammed you if he claimed that elevated cost.

copake ny tree maintenance said...

It goes to show that some cities place more of an emphasis on their parks and trees than New York City does. However, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're totally ignoring tree care.