New Yorkers on average file a claim a day for injuries or property damage caused by falling tree limbs and it's costing the city as much as $14 million a year.
That's partly because the city Department of Parks and Recreation is mismanaging the program to prune the 650,000 trees outside of parks and on city streets, said Comptroller Scott Stringer.
The department doesn't keep accurate lists of trees that need to be pruned, isn't inspecting work to make sure it's done, and is sometimes paying contractors to trim trees that don't need it, according to an audit Stringer’s office released Sunday.
Stringer discussed his audit at a press conference in Chelsea, the site of an injury due to a fallen branch that cost the city $4,000.
“I do not want to wake up another day to find out a tree has hurt somebody or caused real property damage because the parks department wasn't doing the right pruning, they weren't doing their job,” Stringer said.
The audit found problems in every borough’s pruning operations except for Queens, which Stringer praised for its efforts.
The parks department disputed that it mismanaged the pruning program, but agreed to provide greater oversight, according to a letter the department submitted to the Comptroller's Office.
Phyllis Waisman, a member of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, said she’s noticed that the parks department has had a hard time in recent years keeping up with watering and pruning.
“We've been seeing an increase in the number of dead trees around the city, which we report to get tree replacements, but the problem is the after care once the trees are planted,” Waisman said.