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Queens residents bring Xmas trees to be recycled

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Borough officials and local residents came out Saturday morning to recycle their old Christmas trees at 10 park sites throughout Queens as part of the annual Mulchfest run by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Borough Commissioner Richard Murphy joined others at a collection site in Woodhaven’s Forest Park to officially kick off the citywide event that ends Jan. 11.

“We estimate we’ve recycled about 1,000 trees,” the commissioner said of the program whose goal is to recycle trees and prevent them from going to city landfills. “This is better than I expected, so clearly it’s working and the word has gotten out.”

Murphy said the annual recycling program was started seven years ago as a joint venture between his department and the Department of Sanitation. He said, however, because of recent budget cuts the Sanitation Department had to cut its funding for the program, putting the city Parks and Recreation Department in charge.

Jane Furey of Woodhaven dragged her tree for more than 15 minutes up a hill to get to the recycling station in Forest Park. She said the haul was worth it because recycling a Christmas tree is an environmentally smart decision.

“It was more bulky than anything,” she said of her trip to the station. “I always get a real Christmas tree so I can get it mulched.”

Murphy said residents can either deposit their used trees at drop-off zones in the borough or bring them to mulching sites where the trees will be cut up by a machine. He said borough residents can leave trees at Alley Pond Park in eastern Queens, Astoria Park in Astoria, Kissena Park in Fresh Meadows, Little Bay Park in Bay Terrace, Springfield Park in Springfield Gardens, and Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village for dropoff, or Alley Pond Environmental Center in Bayside, Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows, or Roy Wilkens Park in Jamaica for mulching.

A pair of Kew Gardens residents brought their tree to the site because they thought it was the responsible thing to do, they said.

“We do it because it’s environmentally sound,” said Andrea Niebel, whose friend Peggy O’Halloran said she heard about the recycling program on the radio and found details on where to go on the city’s Web site. “This is our first year doing this and we think it’s a good idea.”

Residents had the choice to either take mulch with them back to their homes or give the mulch to the city Department of Parks and Recreation, Murphy said. The commissioner said his agency will be using the mulch throughout the borough to help keep parks and other green areas healthy.

But some residents brought their trees to Forest Park because they did not want to wait for the city garbage trucks to come and collect them.

“Honestly, I did this just to get rid of my tree,” said Joe Brenner of Middle Village, who had his tree picked up last year by the city instead of recycling it. “If I didn’t do this, the tree may not get picked up in a timely manner.”

The city partnered with Lewis Tree Services, which is under contract for pruning projects, to get free tree mulching equipment to save on the program’s total costs, said Gene Mairs, division manager for the company.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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