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St. Albans tree is milestone

Actress Bette Midler and Mayor Michael Bloomberg celebrated the quarter mark of the MillionTreesNYC initiative with a 250,000th planting in St. Albans Monday and the two green partners are pushing to improve the city’s environment further.

The mayor and the famous environmentalist helped plant a Southern magnolia tree on the front lawn of Sharon and Thomas Stoney’s 196th Street home. The couple agreed to be part of the program, now in its second year, because they wanted to improve the environment and health of their street.

“I really care about the green, the trees, the nature and the air,” said Sharon Stoney, who runs a day-care center out of her home.

Midler, who created and runs the nonprofit environmentalist group New York Restoration Project, which has helped fund and coordinate the MillionTrees program, praised the Stoneys for donating their front lawn for space for the tree.

“I can’t believe we’ve come this far even during these trying economic times,” the Grammy Award-winning entertainer said. “I’ve said it before and I have to say it again, New Yorkers have the biggest hearts of anyone on the planet.”

Bloomberg launched the MillionTreesNYC program in 2007, with the goal of planting a wide variety throughout the city to improve the air. The mayor said the effort has been moving ahead of its scheduled 10-year program because of donations from New Yorkers like the Stoneys and corporations and nonprofits that provide funding.

“Clearly the MillionTrees movement has inspired others,” he said.

The program has been targeting specific areas in the city that have a low number of trees, including Far Rockaway and Staten Island. The areas have been beautified by the initiative and reported improved air quality, according to the mayor.

Taking a page from the Stoneys’ generosity, Bloomberg announced the launch of a city pilot program that will go hand-in-hand with the MillionTrees initiative to plant more trees in southeast Queens. The “Put Down Roots” program will have city volunteers visit the homes of families living within a 16-block radius in St. Albans this Saturday and inform them of the benefits of planting a tree on their front lawns.

Interested homeowners can pick up free trees to plant Nov. 7 at Daniel M. O’Connell Playground at 196th Street and 113th Avenue and volunteers will be on hand to help with the planting, according to the mayor.

“Put Down Roots is one example of the tremendous collective power of volunteerism,” he said.

For more information on Put Down Roots, call 311 or log on to milliontreesnyc.org.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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