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In NYC, neglected tree maintenance raises city's liability costs

It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, spending a little time/effort/money to prevent a problem is much cheaper than the time/effort/money required to fix a problem that has already occurred.

This was the message delivered by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in reference to pruning the city’s trees. Mr. Stringer noted that the city has been mismanaging its tree-pruning program and has been reducing its tree-pruning budget since 2011. As a result of dangerous limbs that do not get pruned, he said, the city’s costs in personal injury lawsuits have risen substantially.

Comptroller Stringer recently completed an audit of the parks department's forestry service, which is responsible for overseeing maintenance of the city’s trees. The results of the audit reveal that when it comes to street trees, the parks department has not been keeping good records of work done by contractors or payments to those contractors. As such, some trees have not gotten pruned regularly and some contractors may have been paid for work that didn’t need to be done.

Bad record-keeping and a shrinking tree-maintenance budget seem to be creating much larger liability costs. Last year, New York City paid $14 million in payouts and settlements in lawsuits over tree-related injuries. One plaintiff alone received $11 million for a skull fracture he suffered in Central Park in 2009.

Especially in a city like New York, regular repair, maintenance and upkeep of infrastructure and public spaces is not just an aesthetic investment. It is crucial to public safety. Trying to save money by neglecting the city’s trees will inevitably lead to safety problems that end up costing more money in the long run.

Source: AM New York, “Stringer: City's lack of tree trimming is costing taxpayers millions,” Ivan Pereira, Aug. 17, 2014 

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