Trees Mean Business: Trees in front of retail establishments are at greater risk than residential street trees due to regular exposure to sidewalk cleaning agents, large volumes of garbage, sidewalk de-icing salts, damage from delivery trucks, bikes and pedestrian traffic.

Trees New York provides block associations, merchants associations, business improvement districts, building managers and maintenance personnel with the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively care for commercial street trees.

Trees New York’s experienced certified arborists provide services ranging from on-location tree stewardship workshops to comprehensive streetscape improvement projects such as tree bed repair and enlargement, tree guard installation, tree plantings and canopy pruning. For more information please email

Primer on Basic Street Tree Maintenance:

The following tree care tips require little time, minimal expense and do a great deal to maintain the health and beauty of street trees. These are services Trees New York can provide if you do not have a neighborhood provider.

• Water the trees
The most important factor in the survival of New York City’s street trees is water. All trees, especially newly planted trees, need 15-20 gallons of water per week in hot, dry weather. Place a hose at the base of the tree and water slowly for 15-20 minutes.

• Keep Tree Beds Clean
Litter is not only unsightly; it blocks the movement of oxygen and water into the soil. Keep tree beds free of litter and weeds and place garbage bags on sidewalks, not in the tree beds.

• Avoid Contamination
Bleach and cleaning agents seriously harm trees. Only wash sidewalks with water. If toxins inadvertently seep into tree beds, remove and dispose of the top ½ inch layer of soil and then flush the pit by watering slowly and deeply for 15-20 minutes.

• De-Ice Sidewalks Without Salt
Rock salt (sodium chloride) reduces the ability of a tree’s fine roots to absorb water, nutrients and oxygen – all necessary for healthy growth. As an alternative, use calcium, potassium or magnesium chloride to deice sidewalks. In the spring, flush tree beds with water to help remove salt residue from the soil.

• Install Tree Bed Guards
Cars, chemicals, dogs, bikes and pedestrians threaten the health of our city’s trees. Installing tree bed guards around street trees is an effective way to protect the health of city trees.

• Cultivate the Soil
Do not step on the soil in tree beds. Compacted soil prevents water and oxygen from reaching tree roots. Break up soil in tree beds to help water and oxygen freely drain down to tree roots. Loosen the soil gently with a hand cultivator.

• Mulch the soil
Mulch conserves water, moderates soil temperature and mitigates damage from dogs, people and snow laden with de-icing salts and cleaning agents. Apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch and do not let the mulch touch the tree trunk. Organic mulch, such as wood chips and bark mulch, decompose and improve the soil structure.

• Plant Flowers
Flowers enhance your storefront and discourage people from walking on tree beds. Plant annual flowers such as impatiens, coleus, begonias or geraniums. Plant spring bulbs such as Muscari and Crocus before the first frost (mid/late November).

• Do Not Raise Soil Levels
Do not add soil to tree beds. When soil or mulch mounds against the base of a tree, it can cause the bark to rot and can create an entry for pests and diseases. The extra weight can also cause compaction.

• Keep Dogs Away from Trees
Many dog owners and walkers are unaware of the harmful impact that dog waste has on street trees. Help remind your neighbors to keep dogs from “visiting” tree pits with a Trees New York Curb Your Dog sign.  Go to to place an order.

Street Tree Planting/Pit Enlargement:

• Request a Tree
NYC Parks plants street trees, free-of-charge, on sidewalks in front of houses, apartment buildings and businesses in all five boroughs.

To request a free street tree, call 311 or go to:

• Plant Your Own Tree
If you want to select a specific tree species, it is likely that there will be a significant wait. Alternatively, you can hire a private licensed contractor. The contractor must secure a permit from the Parks Department. Your contractor should be able to advise you on a tree species that meets both the city’s approved street tree species list and is also appropriate for your site. Bear in mind factors like size, longevity, sun requirements and care requirements. Before planting your own street tree, you must submit a tree permit application to the Parks Department’s Central Forestry & Horticulture division.

• New & Enlarged Tree Pits
To create or enlarge a tree pit before planting,  you will need both a NYC Parks Department permit and a utility/ line clearance/pavement breaking permit from the Department of Transportation (DOT).

In some cases, street trees cannot be planted due to underground obstructions such as vaults and subways. In this case, you might consider planting a tree in a large planter.

For more information go to:

Advanced Tree Care:

Tree pruning combines technique, common sense and a feel for aesthetics. It is important to use appropriate tools and equipment, follow city regulations, and abide by safety standards and proper etiquette. Pruning strengthens a tree’s resistance to damage and breakage, allows you to influence the tree’s shape and to remove limbs that are in danger of falling and potentially injuring pedestrians and/ or damage property. The Citizen Pruner Tree Care Course trains New Yorkers in tree care and pruning. Upon successful completion of the course, participants gain certification to legally work on street trees owned by the City of New York.

Trees New York offers these services as well as customized courses for Business Improvement Districts, Merchant Associations, Community Based Organizations and Building Maintenance Personnel.