Trees New York Citizen Pruner Code of Conduct


This sets forth the rules for Citizen Pruners who are currently licensed by Trees New York. If you have a Citizen Pruner license from Trees New York in good standing, you can prune NYC street trees as indicated below.

 If you do not have a valid Citizen Pruner license from Trees New York, please know that pruning trees without a proper license or proper authorization is an offense punishable as a misdemeanor, with potential criminal and civil consequences.

  1. What you can prune and how
  • You may prune only trees you have authorization to prune.
  • The Citizen Pruner license authorizes you to prune New York City street trees.
  • You may not prune any trees growing in a park unless you have permission from the park’s administrator. No pruning is allowed in any park run by a conservancy, including Central Park, Prospect Park, and Riverside Park.
  • This license does not allow you to prune any tree on private property.
  • You are authorized to prune the following from a New York City street tree:
    • Dead and damaged branches.
    • Suckers and watersprouts.
    • The least healthy of two branches crossing against each other.
    • Crowded branches.
    • Branches that have narrow crotches.
    • Branches which interrupt pedestrian passage or vehicle traffic.
  • You may prune only with the following tools:
    • 12-inch (or smaller) folding saw,
    • hand pruner (e.g. hand pruning shears),
    • lopper (recommended only for advanced pruners),
    • pole saw (recommended only for advanced pruners),
    • pole pruner (recommended only for advanced pruners).
  • You may prune only from ground level, with two feet on the ground. You may not stand on or climb anything for any reason.
  • You and your tools must stay at least 10 feet from any overhead wires.
  • Do not prune trees that have been planted during the past two years (pruning will void the tree’s warranty).
  • If a tree has been planted for more than two years, and still has metal collars, stakes, guy wires, or ties, you may remove them if they are girdling the tree.
  • If you prune a diseased branch, you must disinfect your pruning tool (such as with isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol).
  • If you see dead, dangerous, or diseased trees that may cause damage to people or property, report to the homeowner (if applicable) as well as the Department of Parks and Recreation, including by calling 311.
  • Please be considerate of block residents and neighborhood groups. It is polite to ask permission from the block residents before pruning.
  • Your license is valid for five years, after which it needs to be renewed, contact Trees New York for this.
  • Safety is paramount for you and everyone around you. Safety rules must be observed at all times.
  • Do not prune trees under scaffolding or sidewalk sheds.
  1. Safety Rules

Equip Yourself For The Outing:

  • Wear a hat, preferably a hard hat, but at the very least, wear a cap.
  • Wear goggles to protect your eyes from sawdust and branches.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands.
  • Wear washable gloves when cleaning a tree pit. Wash gloves and hands carefully when your job is done. Diseases, particularly from insect bites and animal waste, are a concern.
  • Wear long sleeves when pruning or removing metal collars.
  • Check your tools. Do not use damaged tools. Always check your saw for a loose blade, especially when using it for the first time. Sharp, clean tools make work easier and safer.

At the Outing

  • Work with a partner whenever possible.
  • Select the proper tool for each task. The wrong tool may increase the risk of damage to the tree, the tool or you.
  • Check the area for hazards before you begin pruning. Keep in mind that some areas, at certain times, are too densely populated for safe pruning.
  • Check the tree for hazards before you begin pruning. Look for broken branches and other objects stuck in the tree that could fall and injure people or damage property. Look for wires or lights in the tree that might be electrified (including power lines, or holiday and string lights). Do not use a pole pruner or pole saw near overhead wires.
  • Do not leave tools lying on the sidewalk or on cars. When not in use, your saw should be folded and your shears in its sheath. Do not allow anyone who is not a Citizen Pruner to handle or use your tools. Remember: Tools are sharp!
  • Use caution when cutting branches. Consider where the branch will fall, ensure it does not fall on or near a pedestrian, car, or other property. Strive to place each branch carefully on the ground, and not let branches fall. Even small branches could injure a passerby or damage private property.
  • Always stand on the sidewalk when working, with two feet on the ground. Never stand on a ladder, nor a trash can, nor climb a tree. Allow plenty of room for hand and body motions.
  • Be extremely careful when using a pole saw, always keep two hands on it. The pole saw is a long pole with a sharp saw on one end. Always use two hands, keep control of it, do not allow the saw to tip down to the ground (recommended for use only by advanced pruners).
  • Dispose of branches and debris properly and safely.
    • These are general guidelines, NYC rules may vary by borough. Please familiarize yourself with the rules of your borough and customs of your neighborhood.
    • Leave the area tidy, reduce hazards for pedestrians and sanitation personnel, and try to ensure that haul-away is convenient.
    • Use street trash for minimal debris, such as for leaves, branches less than 1/2″ thick, and smaller debris. Cut branches into smaller pieces so they fit better. While street garbage cans can be used for minimal debris, additional tied trash bags can be placed alongside them.
    • Larger branches can be cut into 3-foot pieces using a lopping shear or saw, then tied into a bundle with string. Place the bundle in a safe area by the curb and near street trash cans.
    • Dispose of collars and guy-wires properly and safely in the trash, wrapping the wire into a coil.
    • Stakes in poor condition should be cut into pieces and bundled with branches or placed in the trash.
    • For large amounts of wood debris, call 311 to arrange a pick-up by the “wood debris removal service.” Service may vary by borough. Please revisit the area to ensure pickup has occurred.
  1. Interaction with the Public

Here are some tips on good manners as a Citizen Pruner:

  • Always be polite to passers-by and take time to talk to them. You are an ambassador of Trees New York, can help teach them about what you are doing, and perhaps recruit new volunteers or donors.
  • Do not block the sidewalk when working.
  • Consider that pedestrian traffic flow may be timed with nearby traffic signals.
  • If you decide it is necessary to remove a large branch, prune off as many small branches grow off the large branch as possible and bundle or discard them first. This reduces the weight and size of the branch to be cut, and also makes the branch look less important. Untrained pedestrians are less likely to be alarmed by the size of the branch being cut.
  • Some people will take interest or be concerned about your activity, especially if it concerns a tree in front of their home. Once you politely explain what you are doing and why, most people will be positive and appreciative about your work. On rare occasions, you may encounter someone who remains upset at your pruning activities.
    • Defuse any conflict, to the best of your ability.
    • Thank them for being concerned.
    • Indicate that you have been authorized by the NYC Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees New York to prune street trees.
    • Invite them to call Trees New York to verify your license status and regarding what is best for the tree.
    • Explain that you have taken a course and passed a license exam, and where appropriate, show your Citizen Pruner ID.
    • If objections persist, stop pruning and walk away. At any time, you may decide such conversation with that particular person will not be productive. This is a big city with many other trees that need you.
    • Fortunately, conflicts are extremely rare. Most people appreciate the important work that Citizen Pruners do!
  • Show your Citizen Pruner ID if requested by a police officer or peace officer. Be sure to take it with you on every pruning outing.
  1. Conclusion

Thank you for being a part of the volunteer corps that helps maintain our urban forest.

Please record your Citizen Pruner work and other tree care work through the New York City Tree Map at in order to show the important work we do. Before you will be allowed to record tree pruning activity, you must first log in or register, identify yourself as a Citizen Pruner, and then Trees New York must confirm the validity of your Citizen Pruner license.

Please keep your Citizen Pruner license in good standing, and contact Trees New York with any questions.

If you do not have a valid Citizen Pruner license from Trees New York, remember that pruning trees without a proper license or proper authorization is an offense punishable as a misdemeanor and with steep fines. See Title 18, Chapter 1, Section 18-129 of the New York City Administrative Code, and see the NYC Parks website on this topic at Further, modifying or damaging someone else’s property without permission (such as a NYC street tree, or a tree on private property) may violate criminal law and incur civil liability.