License to Prune

citizen tree pruner nyc

It’s official. I graduated and I’m now a New York City Citizen Tree Pruner! I have the authority to prune any tree in NYC that’s been planted by the parks department after two years of its installation and any tree outside of a conservatory. So, If you see me in front of your house with a pole-saw cutting your tree, please don’t call the cops.

Since I last wrote about the class, I’ve learned extensively about the importance of street trees, the many dangers facing trees in our city and how to recognize and remedy those problems. I learned the basic biology of a tree and how to identify the 16 different trees that are planted in our five boroughs. We were taught how to report a problem
with a tree, request a new tree or petition for a tree pit expansion on the parks website. You don’t need a citizen pruner license to submit requests. If you know of a damaged or dead tree, report it here.

Session three, tree biology and identification was the most interesting to me. I find myself walking around town on the way home from the gym or the supermarket staring at trees; alternate buds, simple leaf form with an oval shape, little ridges, glossy leaves, showy flowers… it’s a Callery Pear! My obsession with tree identification as turned a new corner. My husband and I be in the car and play “name that tree”. With only a minute or so at a red light it becomes a challenge to identify the correct species… unless it’s a London Plane tree. It’s unique “camo” bark is a dead giveaway! I have
to remember to bring my trusty citizen pruner manual with me in the car. If I can’t identify a tree on the road, it drives me nuts. And in turn, annoying Matt. He’ll tell me I’m not allowed to talk anymore until we get home – tree enthusiast gag order.

I received a letter from  Rockaway Park resident Herbert Coles and learned he too is a citizen tree pruner! In fact, there are at least three of us. Clare Hilger, Secretary of the Rockaway Beach Civic association graduated this summer as well!  We’ll all have to get together for a tree pruning excursion. There are so many trees in
Rockaway that are in great need of some pruning TLC.

If you have a passion for pruning, value our urban forest, and want to contribute to the betterment of our community, consider becoming a citizen tree pruner! Visit for the next course schedule. In addition to the Citizen Tree Pruner course, Trees New York hosts many volunteer outings for adults and children. Some include: Tree bed clean up and soil cultivation; a tree watering outing; a mulching day; and join the Trees New York group for tree pit gardening events which they host in various locations around the city.

For more information about Trees New York and their volunteer programs vist Find them on or follow oninstagram @treesny.

Commissioner Mitchell Silver was the special guest speaker at our rooftop graduation ceremony which was held at the The Arsenal Rooftop garden in Central Park.

tagged in garden, trees