Trees planted in Astoria using money from Con Edison

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Representatives of the City Parks Foundation and other nonprofits planted trees on and near the corner of 27th Street and 20th Avenue in Astoria Monday as part of an initiative to bring 850 new trees to western Queens in the next three years.

The trees are being paid for with $2 million of a larger settlement from the electric utility Con Edison as restitution for a major blackout in 2006 that left some residents in Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside without power for as long as 10 days.

“They definitely will keep it cooler in the summer,” said Nancy Perez, who lives on the block and who lobbied for the city to plant trees on her street corner.

After the 2006 blackout, which left hundreds of residents and businesses without electricity in the heat of the summer, a group sprang up called Western Queens Power for the People to hold Con Ed accountable.

Con Ed agreed to a $63 million settlement with $17 million in funds to benefit the community. The nonprofit North Star Fund was chosen by Power for the People to distribute the funds to various community groups, with the largest amount of funds, $2 million, going to the nonprofit City Parks Foundation for its Greening Western Queens project to plant trees throughout the affected area.

“This is by far the biggest single project,” said Michael Easterling, a representative of the fund.

Joe Kocal, senior forester for Queens with the Parks Department, said the agency planted about 25 trees and additional grasses Monday and planned to plant additional trees in Astoria, Long Island City and Sunnyside throughout the fall planting season. About 850 trees will be planted in those communities and in Woodside over the next three years during the spring and fall planting seasons.

The trees planted on 27th Street and 20th Avenue include honey locust and Japanese pagodas, Kocal said.

“Generally speaking, they’re a very hearty species that has a low mortality rate for New York City,” he said.

Kocal said 27th Street and 20th Avenue was chosen because Perez had encouraged her neighbors to steward the trees.

Kyle Richard, the community coordinator for Greening Western Queens, said trees will be planted in spots where clusters of eight to 10 people are willing to care for the trees.

“It’s a community-based project,” Kocal said, “and we plant where we get the most input and support from the community.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), who lost power for 10 days during the blackout, said the planted trees were a small comfort due to the damage from the blackout, but would improve the corner and block views of the nearby industrial facilities.

“Greening is always good,” he said. “It both beautifies the neighborhood and improves the environment.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 2:12 pm, November 17, 2011
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