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Barking for new trees - Residents anticipate more sidewalk plantings

Local residents in Community Board 14 looking for a tree on their block no longer need to jump through hoops to get the city Parks Department to come down and consider planting a tree. Andy Rabb, the Parks Department director of forestry for Brooklyn, came to last week’s CB 14 Environmental Committee meeting to explain the city’s long-range Plan 2030 regarding tree planting. Rabb came on invitation following CB 14’s opposition to a Street Tree Planting Zoning Text Amendment last November. CB 14’s vote is strictly advisory. Among the reasons the text amendment was turned down was that property owners affected by a tree planting would still assume the cost of liability from the planting associated with sidewalk damage due to root growth. Additionally, CB 14 felt that property owners would not be protected from maintenance or utility charges such as water and sewer fees due to the mandated tree planting. However, Rabb explained that regardless of the community board’s position, the city has an aggressive tree planting schedule and doesn’t need a homeowner’s permission to plant a tree on city property between the sidewalk in front of a property and the street. Additionally, residents can request to have a tree planted on the city-owned area in front of a property owner even if it’s not their property in question, said Rabb. Rabb reiterated that the property owner remains responsible for any damage caused to their property by the tree. Rabb also came complete with a PowerPoint presentation on Plan 2030, showing that CB 14, with its leafy sections of Ditmas Park, already has the approximate number of trees that the department would like to see citywide. While the department would look to do more plantings in wide swaths of surveyed areas that have fewer trees, it will still plant trees in CB 14, Rabb said. Rabb said first priority in tree plantings would go to requests currently in the pipeline for trees, and the second priority would go to surveyed areas that have fewer trees. Individual property owners and others who would like to see a tree planted on their block or in the area can still submit location requests for review, said Rabb, adding that the Parks Department has plenty of trees. What’s more, Rabb said that while regulations used to require these requests to come through the community board, residents may now call 311 or his department directly at (718) 965-7737. Requests can also still come through the community board, he said. Following the presentation, Ditmas Park Association President Monica MacAdams said she is taking a wait-and-see attitude. “Until there’s more clarification and a track record with how requests for trees are met, we will have to see how this new system works in terms of delivering trees to this community,” she said.

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