One More Tree and a Little More Hope

The environmental and political news that confronts us daily from across the globe is daunting. But in the midst of these collective troubles, New York City celebrated a real milestone today: the city has planted over one million new trees, two years ahead of schedule.

The trees were planted as part of MillionTreesNYC, a public-private partnership between the city’s Parks Department and Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project. Since its launch in 2007, MillionTreesNYC has expanded the city’s urban forest by nearly 20 percent, and has become an “unprecedented…urban environmental movement,” says the Mayor’s Office.

MillionTreesNYC received more than $350 million in city funds during the Bloomberg administration, and NYRP contributed an additional $30 million through private funding.

More trees to come!

The de Blasio administration says it will plant an additional 150,000 new trees over the next three years as part of its sustainability and climate resiliency plan, OneNYC.

The city will be planting trees “strategically”—using them to combat heat islands, help with stormwater mitigation, and bolster its new Parks without Borders initiative, which “envisions a seamless public realm that improves access to public space and uses trees to create green pathways and boundaries.”

To celebrate today’s occasion, Mayor de Blasio planted tree number 1,017,634, an American linden, at Joyce Kilmer Park in the Bronx.

Also present at the celebration was former mayor Michael Bloomberg, who observed, “we planted tree number one just down the road eight years ago and we’ve added one million more thanks to the dedication of so many.”

Fifty-thousand New Yorkers have volunteered with MillionTreesNYC.

“Each new tree planted makes our city a little more beautiful, the air we breathe a little cleaner, and our carbon footprint a little smaller,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “MillionTreesNYC was an important part of our comprehensive sustainability plan, which has led to New Yorkers breathing the cleanest air our city has had in 50 years.”

To learn more and get involved with the city’s greening and stewardship efforts, visit www.nyc.gov, call 311, or check out MillionTreesNYC.

One Million Trees: By the Numbers

Number of Trees Planted by Borough

  • Bronx – 276,600
  • Brooklyn – 182,593
  • Manhattan – 80,016
  • Queens – 284,755
  • Staten Island – 173,134
  • Borough unknown – 2,902

Number of Trees Planted by Type

  • Street trees: 155,000 (+ 2,020 since planting of the Millionth Tree)
  • NYC Park trees: 595,000 (+ 15,614 since planting of the Millionth Tree)
  • Private and other open space trees: 250,000

 

What Are We Doing Here?

Hello there. My name is Jeff Tancil. My web shop proudly produces the New York Environment Report.

Simple as it sounds, I decided to make this site because I have way too many questions about our environment.

For instance, the plastic bags. You’ve probably seen them many times—the sad plastic bag, snarled in the branches of an unsuspecting tree. I used to ignore them. As a long-time Brooklynite, I’d gotten used to seeing them tumbleweed along the sidewalk, waft into the air on a gust of grimy bus-wind, and take up residence in one of NYC’s 5.2 million trees.

But lately, the plastic bag stuck in the tree drives me nuts. All litter does, really. I get so mad that I momentarily lose all of my carefully-concocted New York cool and I pick up the trash with my bare hands. Yes, it’s a weird (and foolish) thing to do.  I promise to regain my senses soon.

While I am picking up the litter, though, I wonder about a few things—and not just the diseases I risk contracting. Where do these bags and other litter come from? Where do they end up? How does their journey impact all of us? And what the heck ever happened to that plastic bag tax?

Perhaps you’re wondering about plastic bags as well.  Or, maybe you’d like to know about our water—is it safe to drink? Is it ok to take a dip at the local beach? What about the air where you live? Or the future of Indian Point? Or what’s going on with fracking across the state?

One New York, One Environment

That’s where New York Environment Report comes in. We’re here to fill the void in regular coverage of New York’s environment. And by New York, we mean New York City and State—it’s hard to cover one without the other.

New York does not lack for media coverage. And there’s been a welcome uptick in reporting on all environmental issues—not just climate change. But, New York’s environment is a vast, rich and complicated rubric. Many important stories are under-reported or simply not reported at all. Take a look back at our report on the use of fracking water on roads and see if you don’t agree.

From the Rockaways to the Finger Lakes, we live in a richly interconnected state. Our water comes from the Catskills, our energy flows through pipelines and transmission lines that crisscross the state, at least some of our food comes from the Hudson Valley, and at least some of the garbage that doesn’t end up in trees gets trucked and shipped upstate.

Questions and Story Pitches Welcome

So far, we’re what you might expect: a small but deeply passionate team of writers and web people. We’d love your help: New York is a big place and five people (only 2.5 of whom write for the site) can only cover so much.

If you’re a writer, please pitch us stories about the environment. It can be anything from a report on the day’s weather to a data piece about food policy.

And, if you live anywhere from Battery Park to Buffalo, please send us your questions and comments about the environment—it can be as local as the water quality of your nearest beach to statewide questions about the status of fracking.

Please drop me a line if you have any questions or suggestions. My email is jeff(at)nyenvironmentreport.com. Yes, the (at) is intentional. I hope to hear from you.

In the meantime, you’ll be happy to know that I now own a sturdy pair of gloves for when I get that uncontrollable urge to pick up litter.

 

It Ain’t Easy Being a Tree in NYC

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.”

Photo credit: MillionTreesNYC
Photo credit: MillionTreesNYC

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?

Spring is Here: Plant a Tree in NYC! Or, Adopt!

New Yorkers have a way to improve local air quality, cool the city, and make the city more beautiful for all of us. They can join their neighbors in planting new trees, and caring for the ones here now!

The arrival of spring means that thousands of new trees will be planted on city streets, in public parks, and on private property.

MillionTreesNYC, which is managed by the city and the New York Restoration Project, is well on its way to planting a million trees by 2015, two-years ahead of schedule. The NYRP says that over 800,000 trees have already been planted in the five boroughs.

A public-private partnership, Million Trees NYC is part of PlaNYC, the long-term sustainability “blueprint” created by the Bloomberg administration.

Getting Involved

New Yorkers can get involved in many ways. Anyone who owns property -a home, business, non-profit, etc.- can obtain free trees from the New York Restoration Project, along with tips on how to care for them.

Property owners must plant the new trees on their property, not along city streets or in parks.

If you don’t own property, there are tens of thousands of trees that need love and attention. You can adopt a tree!

A Greener City

The NYRP reports that the city’s Department of Buildings has adopted two zoning requirements which “further MillionTreesNYC tree-planting goals”.

Every new surface parking lot constructed within the five boroughs must be planted with trees in order to “reduce the heat emitted from large asphalt and other types of surfacing”.

And any developer or builder of a new building must plant new street trees every 25 feet around the structure’s street frontage.

Cooling Us Down

In addition to absorbing CO2 emissions and other pollutants, and stormwater, trees literally make the city more liveable.

How much do trees help? Think about New York City’s blistering summers.

The federal EPA says that trees and vegetation “lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade and through evapotranspiration. Shaded surfaces, for example, may be 20–45°F cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded materials.”