NYC park rules New Yorkers frequently break: Climbing trees, flying flags, more

If climbing a tree and playing a game of poker in the park with friends sounds like the perfect fall activity, think again.

Both of these activities are against the law in the city.

In fact, there are many rules in place for enjoying city parks and not all of them are as obvious.

"I think these rules represent good, civil public behavior. Parks can be abused, so it is good to have rules like these in place. I understand people could feel inconvenienced by the rules though," said Upper West Side resident Susana Nicholson, 60, who admitted to breaking the rule prohibiting people from picking flowers. "I probably shouldn’t have done that."

Fellow Upper West Side resident Suraj Singh, 39, said it's more important that the rules are actually enforced if they are in place.

"I feel that if what you are doing is private and you are not hurting anyone, you should be able to do what you want," said Singh, who works as a waiter. "The problem is that people don't self-regulate."

There were a total of 2,422 people cited for breaking a rule in the parks from July through September 2016, according to Parks Department data. The No. 1 offense was unauthorized vending, for which there were 620 citations.

A Parks Department spokesman said that the rules "exist to keep parks safe, clean and enjoyable for all park users. Our Park Enforcement Patrol officers support these goals by educating park users on our rules and, when necessary, issuing summonses."

In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which included regulations allowing officers to issue a civil summons as opposed to a criminal one for low-level offenses.

As of July 13 of this year, many violations of parks rules were reduced from misdemeanors to violations that do not result in a criminal record. However, several offenses like those that "relate to public safety and other serious matters such as explosives, firearms and weapons," or "causing significant expense or damage to Parks property, including trees" are still considered misdemeanors.

Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Parks, said some of the lower-level rules make sense but punishment for violating them should be proportionate to the degree of the offense.

"We don’t want people defoliating our parks; there is a rationale for a rule against picking flowers," Levine said. "But we just have to make sure the punishment is appropriate."

Levine said some rules, however, like the ban against climbing trees, just don’t make sense to him.

"I think we should clarify reckless endangerment in climbing a tree," he said.

These are some of the parks rules that New Yorkers frequently violate:

Destruction or abuse of trees, plants, flowers, shrubs and grass

It may seem romantic, but picking flowers (as well as defacing or removing any plants from the ground) could land you with a fine. A total of seven people were cited for this offense from July through September, according to the Parks Department.

Flying a flag or banner

Showing off your country or school pride is a noble concept. But don't try to fly it from any kites, balloons or aerial devices because it's most definitely illegal. No one was cited for an unauthorized banner from July through September.


A friendly game of poker with friends in the park sounds like a good time, but make sure there's no money involved because gambling in any form is illegal.


Using metal detectors

Unless you're on a sandy beach, leave the metal detectors at home. Having one in a park is illegal.


Stick to the monkey bars when you feel the need to climb on something because it's illegal to scale a tree, wall, fence, shrub or fountain, and more. A total of six people were cited for unlawful entry to, or climbing on, Parks property from July through September.

Possessing garden tools

It doesn't matter if you were planning on digging up buried treasure or not, simply having a tool used for gardening is illegal in the parks. No one was actually cited for this offense from July through September.

Carrying weapons, including slingshots

It may seem common knowledge that you shouldn't bring in firearms or missile-propelling instruments into Central Park. But if you thought that slingshot would make it, think again -- those are illegal too.


You'll have to channel your inner boy scout elsewhere because camping or erecting a tent in any city park is illegal. No one was cited for unauthorized camping from July through September, according to the Parks data.