ive years into the Million Trees program, New York City finds itself slightly more than halfway to its goal of planting one million trees throughout the city. The most current statistic available from the city Department of Parks and Recreation put the number of trees planted as of May 22, 2012 at 589,543 citywide. As of the same date, 126,500 trees, representing 25.3 percent of the total, had been planted in Queens.
The Million Trees program is a part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, a long-term plan to create an environmentally sustainable city. Under its aegis, the city is to plant 60 percent of the new trees along streets, in parks and in other public spaces. The other 40 percent will be planted through the efforts of homeowners, the business community and non-profit organizations. The Parks Department will plant more than 200,000 new street trees by 2017 to fully stock every New York City street. The department will green entire blocks at a time, take individual requests and automatically replace trees after existing ones have been removed.
In 2012, trees are being planted in other locations along city streets and other public spaces. Business districts find trees beneficial commercially and in terms of property values and leasing rates. The boards of co-ops and condominiums, large numbers of which have been built in Long Island City and Astoria, to cite just two communities, can undertake significant beautification and street-planting efforts in front of their immediate properties and along their respective blocks that will increase the individual and collective values of these types of residences. Studies show that trees contribute to a sense of community well-being at hospitals, clinics and community health facilities. Tree planting can be incorporated into the public open spaces that surround the borough’s libraries, museums, faith-based institutions and other sites of public gathering during renovations and new construction. Planting trees is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to lower the impact of construction, improve the environment and facilitate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and compliance in new commercial and residential development. The Parks Department will seize on opportunities to plant new trees and expand the urban forest by reforesting 2,000 acres in parks in every borough, as well as around highways and other city-owned land. Public housing campuses are in particular need of comprehensive tree-planting and greening and will see the efforts of the Million Trees program take place in their public spaces. Rental building owners many times have shown themselves willing to invest in replacing inferior street trees or planting empty tree pits when tenants express an interest in and commitment to helping care for the trees. Be they row houses, brownstones or stand-alone dwellings, all single-family homes provide curbside, lawn or side-lot opportunities to plant trees.
In 2007, London plane trees comprised 15.3 percent of the top 10 street tree species in New York City as a whole, followed by little —leaf linden, 4.7 percent; Norway maple, 14.1 percent; green ash, 3.5 percent; Callery pear, 10.9 percent; red maple, 3.5 percent; honey locust, 8.9 percent, silver maple, 3.2 percent; pin oak, 7.5 percent, and Ginkgo, 2.8 percent. Norway maples accounted for the greatest part of Queens’ tree population, 18 percent, followed by London plane tree, 14 percent and pin oak, eight percent. Callery pear and honey locust tied at seven percent. In 2007, 90 percent of those trees were in good and excellent condition, but some 10 percent of Queens’ street trees were in poor condition or dead. No statistics as to tree types planted in Queens were available in 2012.
—Linda J. Wilson