Op-Ed: Dangerous trees: Whose responsibility?

At the corner of King and St. Johns Place
September 5, 2008
by Bill McGovern

Dead, diseased or overgrown trees and limbs hanging over the road way seem to be everywhere.

If a tree falls and causes damage, injury or death, assigning responsibility is very difficult because if the owner of the tree is not aware that it poses a hazard, then the owner cannot be reasonably expected to remove it.

David Rambo, deputy commissioner of public works for the town of New Castle, is very much aware and concerned about the damage a dead, diseased or overgrown tree can cause. He told me recently that the town of New Castle has a right-of-way and responsibility for 25 feet from the center of the roadway. If a dangerous tree known to pose a threat comes within this corridor, the town will take action to remove the tree.

He went on stress, however, that the town is only responsible for town-owned roads. As he explained, “Westchester County is responsible for county-owned roads such as Pinesbridge [Road]. Routes 9A and 120 are owned by the State of New York and are therefore the responsibility of the State Department of Transportation.”  And, Rambo told me,  the state can be very slow to respond.

For example, there are two dead trees on Route 120. The one at the corner of St. Johns Place and King Street has been dead since spring. Another, on Quaker Road just north of Spring Lane near the Duck Pond, has been dead much longer. Rambo has been urging the state for the last three years to remove it, but to no avail.

The important thing is to make proper notification so if the tree falls and causes damage, injury or death, responsibility can be assigned appropriately. If you notice a dead, diseased or overhanging tree that you believe constitutes a hazard, contact the New Castle Department of Public Works and report it. Try to be as specific as possible regarding the location. A public works representative will come out and inspect the tree. If it is deemed the responsibility of another governmental agency, the inspector will make proper notification. The New Castle Department of Public Works can be reached by phone at 238-3968 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Quaker and Spring, first reported three years ago

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