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Stringer: Poorly managed street trees comes at a cost to New Yorkers

Money doesn't grow on trees, but a new report shows the city spends more to settle lawsuits related to fallen branches than it does on pruning city trees.

An audit by Comptroller Scott Stringer of the Parks Department found that more the city has been billed more than $714,000 by contractors who were hired to take care of some 650,000 street trees citywide between 2011 and 2015. Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images An audit by Comptroller Scott Stringer of the Parks Department found that more the city has been billed more than $714,000 by contractors who were hired to take care of some 650,000 street trees citywide between 2011 and 2015.
Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Money doesn't grow on trees, but a new report shows the city spends more to settle lawsuits related to fallen branches than it does on pruning city trees.

An audit by Stringer of the Parks Department found that more the city has been billed more than $714,000 by contractors who were hired to take care of some 650,000 street trees citywide between 2011 and 2015.

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Meanwhile, the city spent $14 million in 2013 to settle claims against the city for injuries caused by falling tree branches.

“I don’t have to go out on a limb to tell you that our city’s performance is unacceptable,” Stringer told reporters on Sunday.

"Tax dollars are wasted, property is damaged and, worst of all, people are sometimes injured or killed," he added.

The audit found borough forestry offices in Manhattan and Staten Island in particular failed to give contractors adequate lists of trees that required pruning — sometimes including smaller trees that should not have been included — and lacked record keeping of trees actually evaluated by the hired hands.

Meanwhile, Queens did well enough in the audit, with its offices considered "a model" by the comptroller.

In a letter to Stringer's office, the Parks Department said it agreed with recommendations laid out by the report, including better lists and recovery of money paid for work that should either have not been or was not done.

But it disagreed that the agency doesn't oversee contract work well enough.

"While we believe there is room for improvement," a parks official wrote, "the report should recognize the positive impact this program has on neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs."

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter@chestersoria

 
 
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