The Story of BROW: Planting Street Trees Beyond the Right-of-Way—and What it Means for New Yorkers

By Al Wegener, Landscape Consultant

Is it legal for a municipality to plant street trees beyond the right-of-way (ROW)—that is, on private property?

Sugar maple in New Paltz shows effect of cutting by utility, age and decay, with no room within ROW for planting new tree. Photo by Al Wegener
A sugar maple in New Paltz affected by utility pruning, age, and decay, with no room within ROW for planting new tree. Al Wegener

It’s a question I’ve run into a lot when planning street trees with towns and villages.  That’s in part because with the widening of our roads over the years and the construction of sidewalks, there is often insufficient soil volume in the ROW to support street trees.  Furthermore, some highway superintendents want a ROW free of trees so they can do street maintenance operations more easily. Also, trees in the ROW may conflict with utility lines, a battle neither “wins.” So it’s really tempting to plant just a few feet beyond the ROW, on what might be an open and inviting lawn. But is it legal to do so?

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