Big Town, Going Green: Trees bring green benefits to the city

By Holly Reich
New York, NY (February 24, 2010)- One million trees for New York City by 2017! A tall order? Not when you consider the source. MillionTreesNYC, a citywide, public-private program has green as its goal with plans to plant and care for one million new trees across the city’s five boroughs within the next decade. As a result, New York City’s urban forest- made up of street trees, park trees, and trees on public, private and commercial land- will increase by 20 percent.


Agreed, green looks good, but there are benefits that most of us haven’t even thought of. It’s a given that tree-lined streets look more beautiful and can boost your spirits. Trees can also help improve property values and increase neighborhood business. Beyond that, trees clean the air and help to reduce the pollutants that trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. Trees can also lower energy costs by acting as an umbrella to cool the sidewalks on hot summer days.
Since October of 2007, MillionTreesNYC has planted over 300,000 trees of which 165,000 have been located in New York City’s forests- the result of a partnership with Natural Resources Group. NRG is the nonprofit organization founded by Bette Midler that is committed to reclaiming and restoring City parks, community gardens, and open space.
A forest in NYC? Yes, in fact, there are 29,000 acres of city-owned parkland within the five boroughs. “We go to remote areas, like Ocean Greens in Staten Island, to develop forests from the ground up,” explains Morgan Monaco, director of MillionTreesNYC for the Parks Department. She notes that the plan is to reforest 2,000 acres of parkland by 2017.
A couple of years back, MillionTreesNYC started holding one-day volunteer planting events, in the spring and fall, in all five boroughs. These Restoration Planting Days have been a smashing success with as many as 1,000 volunteers showing up to help plant 20,000- yes 20,000!- trees in the New York area.
But we’re not talking about flourishing city sidewalks (there are other programs for that). The Restoration Planting Days- the next day is scheduled for April 24- take volunteers to plant trees in the wilds of New York, areas where there is little or no forestation. “We’ve had such an overwhelming response from people who just want to dig in with us,” says Monaco. “It’s a great opportunity for families to do something together, clubs, and special interest groups, even high school students filling community service requirements.”
Because of the turnout, MillionTreesNYC has decided to expand its programs to include forest restoration workshops starting this spring. Partnerships with Parks, in association with NRG, will launch a pilot series of these workshops where volunteers will receive free classroom instruction and field training. The first goal is to have graduates lead other community members in stewardship projects aimed at enhancing New York City’s parks and forests, followed by the aforementioned reforestation of 2,000 acres by 2017.
If you want to get even more involved, MillionTreesNYC has a Stewardship Corps to help maintain the trees that are being planted. “We begin the relationship with planting and give volunteers the opportunity to come back and learn to build healthy eco-systems. Over time they can visit the sites and see how the trees have grown,” Monaco says.
Wondering about paid jobs? MillionTreesNYC’s training program is going into its second year with 32 trainees. “There’s a big job training market in ‘green collar work,'” explains Monaco. MillionTreesNYC has something for every nature lover- and it’s free! So, whether you want to put a tree on your street, volunteer for a day, be a tree steward, learn a trade or get some fresh air and do a good deed, call 311 or visit www.milliontreesnyc.org.
Online registration opens March 1 for the April 24 Reforestation Planting Day.
Related Resources:
New York Daily News- Big Town, Going Green: Trees bring green benefits to the city
New York Restoration Project