Adopt a tree, make your nabe greener
by Michael Perlman
May 09, 2012 | 13159 views | 0 0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Queens is about to become a little greener thanks to the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance’s Second Annual Tree Giveaway Event on Sunday, May 20, from 1 to 3 PM in Forest Hills.

Citywide residents will have the chance of adopting one of 245 trees in MacDonald Park on Queens Boulevard and 70th Avenue. To make this event possible, Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance (4BNPA) partnered with MillionTreesNYC and New York Restoration Project (NYRP). Toyota is a lead sponsor, and lead partners include PlaNYC, and NYC Parks.

Adopted trees are required to be planted on private property in the five boroughs. To tie into environmental history, 4BNPA is offering some unique native tree species. Native species will be Eastern Redbud, Florida Dogwood, Northern Red Oak, and Bald Cypress.

Serviceberry and Sargent Crabapple are hybrids, but can be classified as natives, in regard to their environmental benefits. Japanese Maple and Amur Maackia will also be available, but are not native.

Some trees are flowering, and their maturity heights will vary. Potted trees will be 6 to 10 feet tall, and will come with planting and maintenance handouts. Tree adoption certificates designed by Forest Hills resident Steve Goodman will be distributed, so adopted trees can acquire a sense of identity and education. Trees will be named after former Forest Hills notables, historic street names, and landmarks.

There is a great need to plant more native species citywide, Mike Mitchell, Community Initiatives Coordinator of New York Restoration Project said.

“Native trees are amazing and integral to providing a stable ecology along the coast for both migrating and non-migrating wildlife,” he explained. “It is important to understand that New York City’s ecology is in a constant state of flux, and we need a flexible plant palate to meet the city’s ecological needs.”

This spring, NYRP in partnership with citywide community groups is donating 5,000 trees at 30 giveaway events, with ten in Queens. NYRP began coordinating giveaways in 2008, and has since coordinated over 50 events non-inclusive of this season.

Inspiration stemmed from the understanding that MillionTreesNYC was focused on greening public spaces, but private homes, religious institutions, and community gardens also represent a great portion of the city, and therefore merit tree-planting.

On September 16, 2010, parts of Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island experienced a rare macroburst. Joseph Bruno of the NYC Office of Emergency Management reported 3,113 fallen trees in Queens alone. As Queens vice president of 4BNPA and a native Forest Hills resident, I documented the devastation locally, and sent a proposal to NYRP and developed a bond. 4BNPA agreed to host its first tree giveaway event on June 12, 2011, and donated 100 trees to property owners.

With the volunteerism of its members and Rego-Forest Preservation Council, this helped restore the natural and historic beauty of Forest Hills, as well as beyond. Following last year’s success, I decided to coordinate another tree giveaway event this spring.

Many people did not realize the benefits of our trees until some of which were a century-old succumbed in seconds. Trees convey life, beauty, contribute to environmental sustainability, and enhance property values. MacDonald Park was selected as the event site, in order to shed light upon a concentrated space that lost sixty mature trees during the tornado, and to initiate memories of a productive community event.

New York City needs to preserve its existing tree canopy and plant more trees. However, some property owners degrade neighborhood aesthetics and environmental benefits by cutting down trees in the name of development-related “progress.” For example, lawns have been paved over with cement, contributing to inadequate runoff.

“It is well-known that each square foot of impervious surface which covers the city, contributes to the growing stormwater management issues in New York City,” said Mitchell. “The consequence of pouring concrete is that our beaches, bays, and estuaries are significantly comprised of human waste throughout the entire year. Our water is so over-polluted, that bivalves, the group of animals responsible for filtering out the pollution in the ocean, are unable to survive.

”Concrete and concrete-like materials also absorb radiation, and hold onto it for long periods of time,” he added. “This warmer ‘urban heat island’ creates odd conditions, including increasing temperatures and reducing the effectiveness of the city’s green space.”

“The event last year was a huge success, as judged by the overflow crowd which arrived two hours early, with many people not being able to get a tree,” said James Trent, president of 4BNPA. “Four Borough's involvement is a great event, since our mission is to preserve and improve the quality of life for low-density neighborhoods. Some trees may end up in highly dense neighborhoods, but that is not a problem, since none of us live in a vacuum. Trees improve air quality and beautify the city for all.”

On May 20, those who wish to adopt a tree should line up in MacDonald Park before 1 p.m. in front of either an online reservation table or a first-time registration table. The first 50 percent of applicants can reserve their tree online at

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