Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Branch Banking

How much a street tree is really worth.


A source of shade and privacy. A streetscape brightener. A place for dogs to pee. How can anyone know the true value of a New York City sidewalk tree? Impossible, perhaps—but this being the Bloomberg era, someone had to come up with a number. “It’s New York, and we like to quantify things,” says Fiona Watt, the Parks Department’s chief of forestry and horticulture. And so over the last two summers, more than a thousand people volunteered to conduct a tree census of the five boroughs, the second in the city’s history (the other was in 1995)—and the first to put a price tag on each specimen.

City foot soldiers counted 592,130 non-park trees altogether. Each tree’s type, age, size, and location was fed into a computer program, developed by the U.S. Forest Service and the University of California, Davis, that quantified the plant’s annual value in saving energy costs (more shade means less air-conditioning), improving air quality, absorbing storm-water runoff, and prettifying the block. The study determined that street trees are collectively worth $122 million a year to the city, with an average of $50 to $300 apiece. Not surprisingly, the oldest and largest are worth the most.

Those figures may mean a lot to urban planners, but the average homeowner is more interested in how much money that ginkgo will put in his pocket someday. The standard formula says a dwelling with a tree in front is worth .88 percent more than a home without one; apartment buildings are more complicated. The city’s math allowed for a tree’s effect on property values, but with a limitation: The survey priced all houses equally, at $537,300, the median cost of a single-family home in 2005.

To account for real-world variations in home prices, we got rough appraisals from real-estate agents for each of the addresses at right and did the math ourselves. The result? Maybe Park Slopers shouldn’t let dogs whiz on that Callery pear.

Current Issue
Subscribe to New York

Give a Gift