Over the past decade, at least 10 lawsuits have been filed over injuries or deaths sustained by failing tree limbs in New York City’s Central Park. Millions of dollars in damages have been paid to plaintiffs and their families, and news reports suggest even more payouts are expected.
The problem, according to the New York Times, is that the city has experienced severe cutbacks in monies allotted to the city’s tree care and safety programs, forcing pruning work to be delayed. Safety and inspection work is routinely being performed by general park workers, who have not received the special training in the science of tree care and risk management.
The New York Times reports that there are 2.5 million trees in the city’s parks and streets, and the city is in the process of planting a million more. Currently, trees are pruned on a 15-year cycle instead of a seven-year cycle, while the tree care budget has dropped from $4.7 million to $1.45 million in the last five years alone. However, the Central Park Conservancy maintains a $40 million budget and inspections are performed by professional arborists, though the number of tree caused deaths and injuries in the park suggest that not enough is being done.
The only way to assure public safety, park managers suggest, would be to remove all the trees.