In 2007, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the MillionTreesNYC Initiative, an ambitious plan to “plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s five boroughs over the next decade.”
Seven years in, the initiative is ahead of schedule: 800,000 trees have been planted, and the Parks Department expects to plant the millionth tree by the end of next year.
But have you ever wondered how many of those trees actually survive into adulthood? After all, life on the hard streets of New York City is, well, pretty hard.
Today WNYC published a detailed look at the health and mortality of New York City street trees. Overall, they found that of trees planted in spring of 2011, 6.2 percent of them did not live. And:
Some neighborhoods saw even higher mortality rates, such as Greenpoint-Williamsburg (22.3 percent) and Sheepshead Bay (21 percent), both in Brooklyn. Staten Island and the Rockaways also show high death rates, though those areas were subject to the saltwater from Sandy’s storm surge in October 2012.
While Parks officials and foresters caution that these rates are normal (albeit on the high side of normal), there is concern among some that the City has not invested enough in the management and upkeep of the trees once planted.
Robert Young, an assistant professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin told WNYC:
“They built the acquisition of trees into the capital budget, but not the stewardship of trees,” Young said. “When you build something, you have to take care of it.”
Indeed, the Parks Department is less than clear about who is ultimately responsible for the saplings once they are firmly in the ground. Landscape companies are supposed to water new trees regularly (though anecdotal evidence suggests this doesn’t always happen), but it seems the long-term care is up to residents.
New Yorkers are encouraged to join the MillionTrees Stewardship Core and attend free ”TreeLC” workshops to learn tree care basics. Those who pledge to “Adopt-a-Tree” receive a free watering kit and volunteer card. This interactive map shows where trees are located, and which are in dire need of care.
How are the street trees faring in your neighborhood?