New York, NY (July 6, 2012) — In concert with New York City’s MillionTreesNYC initiative, which it launched five years ago, the city is encouraging New Yorkers to volunteer to take care of neighborhood street trees. And following recent storms and resulting lawsuits, the City has added $2 million for tree pruning, maintenance, and care to its proposed budget. Theirs is a cautionary tale. The result of not tending to urban trees puts people, property, and trees at risk.
After years of declining budgets for the care of New York City’s street trees, the City Council, working with the mayor’s office, added $2 million for tree pruning to the $1.45 million in Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposed budget.
“Tree pruning is something where you don’t see the impact of deferring until there’s a tragedy,” said Councilman Brad Lander, a Democrat from Park Slope, Brooklyn, who joined with members of both parties to press for restorations to the parks budget. “As incidents have shown, there’s a real risk, and, hopefully, getting pruning back on a better schedule will mean New Yorkers will be safer.” The parks department relies primarily on outside contractors to trim and maintain 600,000 street trees, which have caused injuries and at least one death in recent years.
Parks officials praised the restorations. The additional $2 million for tree care, while not a permanent part of the budget, will help put the city on track to return to a seven-year pruning cycle, which national tree-care experts say is close to ideal. The recent cuts had come as New York City embarked on an ambitious tree-planting program initiated five years ago by Mr. Bloomberg, MillionTreesNYC, a planting campaign to green the streets, parks and backyards of New York City, and which is well on its way to reaching the goal for which it was named.
But unlike the trees being planted in parks and on private property, street trees do not have a specific city agency or property owner in charge of their care. Instead, Trees New York and a handful of other nonprofit organizations have stepped forward, with the help of modest grants from MillionTreesNYC, to encourage New Yorkers to volunteer and take care of the street trees themselves. But only a few thousand have been adopted so far, and not all of them are getting the level of care they need to thrive and grow.
To make sure that trees succeed this time around, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation asked the private landscaping companies under contract to plant for MillionTreesNYC to provide maintenance and care — including one inch of water per week, pruning and cultivation — for two years, the most critical time in a tree’s early life. But the new trees’ survival is ultimately in the hands of local caretakers: residents, business owners and anyone else with an interest in the trees’ welfare.