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Tree Folio, NYC

New York City, 2021

A living database of the shapes, characteristics, and locations of each individual street tree in New York City.

Thumbnail Image of NYC Folio Project

Thumbnail Image of NYC Folio Project


As cities around the world confront the combined effects of urban islands and climate change, city trees are a crucial layer of distributed urban infrastructure. The aggregate impact of street trees will be necessary to intercept the run-off of increasingly powerful storms and deflect increasingly intense UV radiation from the heat absorbing materials that constitute the built environment.

The use of trees as distributed urban infrastructure is not new. Trees were used to strengthen medieval fortifications in European cities, to stabilize the banks of Dutch canal towns, as amenities for health and activities, and deployed to catalyze urban development in America. Street trees are a layer of designed infrastructure and their modern use is embedded with historical forms and priorities.

Modern data analytics are exposing the ineffectiveness and inequities that these historical priorities perpetuate. The tree lined street, the highly individualized planter, and the commodification of shading for affluent neighborhoods have disproportionally exposed underinvested neighborhoods to the effects of climate change.

Tree Folio is the development of a high fidelity understanding and modeling of each individual street tree in New York City. This includes the trees physical dimensions, species information, and its interactions with surrounding environments and infrastructures. Folio is comprised of a new database that draws from the NYC 2015 tree census survey and the 2017 NYC LIDAR survey. These datasets are combined and processed to produce a 3-D model that can be used to represent the highly localized impacts of street trees and develop strategies for more effective tree placement and maintenance.

Project Team:
Alexander Kobald (project lead)
Joe Ferdinando (research assistant, developer)
Anthony Townsend (advising)
J. Meejin Yoon

Explore Tree-Folio

Folio is comprised of two primary data sources; the NYC 2015 tree census survey and the 2017 NYC LIDAR survey, which have been processed to produce this dashboard that can display an interactive 3-D portrait, newly extracted physical dimensions,  as well as the biographical information and location of each street tree in the city.

The folio is a parallel way of experiencing the cities trees. This page creates an on-demand visual library of the selected species in the same zip code of NYC, allowing for side-by-side comparison of the different sizes, health, and unique local contexts of the same species in the same area of the city.

Additionally, we have built a tool that provides a visual representation of the shade cast by each tree throughout the day for the 4 seasons of the year.

This rough tool shows the importance of understanding the hyper-local impact of trees, demonstrating the amount of shading a tree can provide the public streets as well as that trees effect on on neighboring buildings depending on the season. Shade on neighboring building facades in the summer is usually considered helpful, reducing the A/C loads on neighboring buildings, specifically in areas with much older, less insulated buildings. Shade on buildings in the winter can be harmful, increasing the amount of heating necessary in the some of these same housing units.

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