Want a better NYC? More trees, please – New York Daily News – New York Daily News

As autumn breezes into New York, changing the color of the leaves and lowering the temperature and (hopefully) our Con Ed bills, I reflect on the value of trees and the terrible flooding my neighborhood and others have recently suffered. Both average precipitation and heavy rainfall are predicted to increase in coming years.
Trees serve many purposes in a city. They beautify, provide shade, absorb rainwater, cool an area, make oxygen and fight climate change. No wonder Joyce Kilmer wrote a famous poem about them in 1913, simply titled “Trees.” Kilmer’s lyric poem — “I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.” — both celebrates trees and laments the fact that nothing humanity creates can match the beauty of nature. Like many New Yorkers, Kilmer’s Catholicism informed much of his view of the world. But the theme is universal.
Maybe Kilmer was right, and we can’t create something as beautiful as a tree, but we are certainly capable, with all our city’s resources, to place and maintain city trees judiciously. We must rely on our NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to respond to our requests.
Projects planned and completed by the Department of Parks and Recreation are often slow and expensive. For example, to renovate an existing men’s and women’s bathroom in Juniper Valley Park, the Parks Department estimated a cost of $3.8 million. Because I see parks as the jewels of my district, I have no choice but to pay.
I agree on the wondrous natural beauty of trees with Kilmer, who said that trees look at God all day and lift their leafy arms to pray. But their price needn’t be heavenly. I found out in a recent hearing with the Parks Department that the current price of planting a city tree is a whopping $3,500. There must be a way to trim the cost. I’m not throwing shade on our Parks Department, but Jersey City pays just $500 to plant a city tree. We do everything bigger and better in the Big Apple, at a premium, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say $3,500 to plant a tree is absurd.
City trees aren’t planted quickly, either. It can take up to three years to complete the request process, beginning with a location survey. There is also quite a backlog, with only so many thousands of trees that the Parks Department can plant each season. A determined tree enthusiast with money can skip ahead by donating at least $1,800 to a charity called the City Parks Foundation. But aside from corporate donors, how many of us can afford that from our own wallets?
As a civic leader, I had to branch out to become an amateur arborist and learn where to put trees and how to keep them healthy. That involves the Parks Department maintaining them in various ways, including repairing, fertilizing, watering, pruning and the safe removal of any dead or diseased trees.
The root of the problem of tree damage is often poor tree placement. Poor placement coupled with poor maintenance leads to dead or dying trees that are more brittle and dangerous, breaking more easily in a storm. It’s very common in our city. Kilmer would be appalled.
This can turn trees from verdant decorations to deadly weapons, falling like bombs and striking like missiles, knocking out power lines, destroying property and worse. Much of this danger can be avoided with judicious choice of planting locations and maintenance.
It’s encouraging that Mayor Adams has discussed a new Million Trees initiative and the possibility of devoting 1% of the city’s budget to the Parks Department, both of which would help with the backlog. But at the going rate, a million trees will really sap the budget.
Not all New Yorkers understand the importance of trees and green space. Some have even paved over their lawns and removed healthy trees. With parking at such a premium, it’s understandable. But properties with grass and trees help mitigate climate change and flooding, which has become a terrible problem in Queens. The city’s 5.2 million trees, 592,130 of which are on city streets, drain roughly 890 million gallons of storm water each year. Among other ways of mitigating flooding, like sewer capacity expansion, more trees and less cement would help.
I will continue to work with Mayor Adams and Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue to bring more city trees, rain gardens, maintenance and other measures into our neighborhoods and address issues concerning our parks. We also need enforcement against illegal paving over lawns. As Kilmer wrote, “only God can make a tree.” But New York can wisely plant and maintain them.
Holden represents Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, and parts of Ridgewood, Woodhaven and Woodside in the City Council.
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News


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