Count ‘Em, if They Bloom: One Million Trees

By Sewell Chan
New York (October 9, 2007)- Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Bette Midler, the founder of the New York Restoration Project, which is devoted to maintaining public spaces, today formally began the Million Trees NYC campaign, an initiative to plant one million trees throughout New York City’s five boroughs by 2017.


The tree campaign is one of the best-known components of the mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 campaign to make the city more environmentally sustainable – but it is no more than a promise. Leaving aside the considerable private support that will be needed to add a million trees to the city’s urban forest canopy, there is no guarantee that successors to Mr. Bloomberg, who is to leave office at the end of 2009, will continue his tree-planting program.
“Over the past 10 years, the Parks Department has planted 118,000 trees and that is pretty tree-licious itself, but in the next decade we’re planning to plant 10 times that number,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “These new trees aren’t going to be only in our parks. They’ll be planted along our sidewalks, on our streets in front of our public housing, in schoolyards and even in our own backyards. And the benefits we think will be felt far and wide.”
Under the mayor’s plan, the Parks Department would receive nearly $400 million over the next 10 years to plant 600,000 public trees, by reforesting 2,000 acres of existing parkland and lining streets with new trees. The plan calls for non-profit and community groups, businesses, developers and “everyday New Yorkers” to plant the remaining 400,000 trees.
Whether the plan will become a reality is uncertain, but that did not deter Mr. Bloomberg, who stood on a sidewalk in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, planted a Carolina Silverbell tree with Ms. Midler and even gave a high-five to a costumed, Big Bird. (Evidently, the “Sesame Street” character would like to see more trees in New York.)
The event, which featured schoolchildren singing a customized version of “Day by Day” (“Care for our trees, please/bursting forth with green leaves/so that we can all breathe/day by day”), cast members from “Wicked” reading poems written by a class of third-graders, and a procession led by Big Bird, also included several cheesy puns from the mayor, who thanked the “grove” of partners and introduced Ms. Midler as “the divine Miss Elm.”
The city estimates that there are already five million trees around the five boroughs; the goal is to expand that number by 20 percent. The mayor said that trees would not only enhance the city’s beauty, but also improve property values, save energy, reduce the number and severity of respiratory diseases and cool streets, yards and open spaces.
A bevy of officials attended the announcement, including Patricia E. Harris, the first deputy mayor; Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development; Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner; Amanda M. Burden, the city planning director; and Rohit T. Aggarwala, director of the the Mayor’s Office for Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. Abigail R. Kimbell, the chief of the United States Forest Service, and Kelly Caffarelli, president of the Home Depot Foundation, were also part of the event.
The city’s Planning Department has proposed zoning changes that would require the planting of street trees as a condition of new developments, major enlargements of existing projects, and some building conversions. If adopted, the proposal, now under public review, could generate roughly 10,000 new trees each year.
Ms. Midler’s nonprofit group, the New York Restoration Project, and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the city government’s charitable arm, will seek financial and other donations for the project; the Home Depot Foundation has made a $1.5 million contribution to support the initiative.
“Yes it’s going to be expensive, but I figure that if the 92 Fortune 500 companies based in New York city each contributed $2.2 million, or if the wealthiest 1,000 New York City-based corporations each contributed $200,000, or if the 3.7 million working New Yorkers each contributed $5 a month, or if just one hedge fund guy contributed his bonus, we’d meet our goal,” Ms. Midler said.
The mayor urged New Yorkers to plant trees in their yards; join tree-planting volunteer groups; learn how to water, mulch, and prune trees; learn about the importance of urban forests; and “become an advocate for planting trees.” Residents may call 311 or visit nyc.gov to request a tree planting. Each request will trigger an evaluation by a Parks Department inspector, who will assess whether electrical wires, underground utility components, light poles and building entrances allow for a tree. If so, a tree planting contractor will be assigned to plant in the tree in the next planting season, either the spring or fall.
For the full article, visit the New York Times.
Related Resources:
Mayor Bloomberg and Bette Midler Plant the First of One Million Trees and Launch
Million Tree NYC
Bloomberg to Unveil Long-Term Vision for New York City
PlaNYC
New York Restoration Project
City Parks Foundation