I SIt And Look Out: City looks to plant a million trees for residents’ benefit

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There are more than 8 million city residents, but each can claim only five-eighths of a tree.

That is because, according to those who should know, there are 5 million trees of 168 species on public and private lands, including the 6,000 acres of woodlands in our parks system.

But part of the mayor’s 127 PlaNYC initiatives for the future of our city is an enterprise called MillionTreesNYC, which hopes to plant 1 million trees by October 2018. The program is off to a great start. When completed, city residents will each be able to claim three-fourths of a tree.

In its first year, more than 100,000 trees were planted and the progress since October 2008 has been such as to make the goal realistic.

It is planned to have 220,000 street trees planted. The city Parks Department and other government agencies will plant 380,000 trees. The remainder of the 1 million will be on private property.

Many years ago, when I was secretary to the then-city Department of Air Pollution Control, I remember coming across a study which claimed to show how much pollution mature trees could remove from the atmosphere. I featured that story in the department’s monthly newsletter.

Today, those involved in MillionTreesNYC estimate than more than 2,200 tons of pollutants are filtered out and cleaned by city trees.

That is just one of the reasons for this major undertaking. Trees also slow global warming. They improve the quality of air and water. They reduce storm water runoff, flooding and erosion. They lower summer temperatures. They reduce energy costs. They increase property values. They attract customers to business districts.

MillionTreesNYC selected six target planting neighborhoods — referred to as “Trees for Public Health” — because they have fewer-than-average numbers of street trees and higher-than-average rates of asthma among young people.

One of the neighborhoods is Far Rockaway. MillionTreesNYC reported that as one of the Trees for Public Health neighborhoods, that part of Queens was “fully stocked with street trees.”

In the next column, I will detail some of the future projects of MillionTreesNYC, one of the most exciting government-citizen participation projects in many years. In the meantime, to find out more about what is going on, dial 311 or visit

You will be glad you did.

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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