Adventures in landscaping: When a co-op board cuts down a building's trees

By Leigh Kamping-Carder  | September 26, 2014 - 1:59PM

One Roosevelt Island co-op board is giving a new meaning to the phrase “trunk show.” The board of the Rivercross, a 365-apartment complex, wants to chop down four nine-story trees in the courtyard, and residents are not happy, the Roosevelt Islander blog reports. When the building went up some 38 years ago, the trees were small, but since then, they’ve “grown considerably,” the board writes in a Sept. 19 memo to the co-op’s shareholders. “With hindsight, these were the wrong types of trees to have been planted in the courtyard.” Noted. 

The issue is that the trees are apparently perilously close to the walls and terraces of one wing of apartments, as well as the Child School, a school for students with learning disabilities. “In the event of a severe storm (like Sandy), there is a risk of significant damage to the building from these trees,” the board’s letter says. “Another consideration is that these trees now obscure the East River view of a very large number of Rivercross apartments, depriving affected shareholders of the river view they once had while negatively impacting the value of their apartments.”

Residents are “extremely upset,” according to Roosevelt Islander, but there’s probably not much they can do. Thanks to a legal precedent called the business judgment rule, co-op boards have a lot of leeway to make decisions about the property if they consider the actions in the best interest of the building, as we've covered previously

In 2000, the New York Times addressed this very issue, noting that “unless the proprietary lease or bylaws of a co-op contain unusual provisions, the board of directors generally has the right to make all decisions regarding the operation and maintenance of the co-op's property. … It is unlikely that a court would grant an injunction barring the removal of the trees.”

Meanwhile, the Rivercross board plans to replace the greenery with shrubs and (presumably shorter) cherry trees, as well as hold discussions with residents. 


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