On Sunday, May 19 ,from 1 to 3 p.m., residents will line up in MacDonald Park on Queens Boulevard and 70th Avenue and adopt one of six unique species among 200 trees to take home and plant on their property. Those who wish to adopt a potted tree should line up before 1 p.m. at MacDonald Park. In advance, tree adopters may reserve their tree on this website.
The Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance (4BNPA) hosts the event in partnership with the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) and MillionTreesNYC. Toyota is a lead sponsor, American Express is a tree giveaway sponsor, and lead partners are NYRP, plaNYC, and the Parks Department.
This will be 4BNPA’s fourth tree giveaway since June 2011, during which time the group has given away nearly 650 trees. Years earlier, the 4BNPA had the sole mission of advocating for landmarks and curbing overdevelopment, but then realized how trees complement architecture and are an important element in restoring our city’s historic landscapes.
NYRP began coordinating tree giveaways in 2008, understanding that the MillionTreesNYC initiative was focused on greening public spaces, but private homes, apartment buildings, religious institutions, and community gardens also represent a great percentage of the city that merit tree planting.
This spring, nearly 30 tree giveaway events are being coordinated - nine will be hosted in Queens – meaning New York City’s urban landscape will have approximately 4,500 new trees. Since the giveaways started, greater than 18,000 trees have been planted.
Many community residents did not realize the benefits of trees until many old trees were lost in a matter of seconds during the September 2010 tornado, which was followed by Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. MacDonald Park, which dates back to 1933, is the Central Park of Forest Hills, and lost 60 mature trees during the tornado. The 4BNPA seeks to restore the “forest” in Forest Hills.
Trees enhance a community’s aesthetics and property values, and most significantly contribute to its environmental sustainability.
“The trees we give away will clean our air and water, reducing run-off and filtering particulate matter from the air for generations,” said NYRP Community Initiatives manager Mike Mitchell. “The value of a city’s urban forest will only increase as rainstorms become more severe and levels of particulate matter increase in our atmosphere.”
The need to plant more native species in Queens and beyond is essential.
“Native species are very helpful for pollinators and wildlife, and their importance should not be understated,” said Mitchell. “The native trees we introduce help increase diversity in the tree plantings around the city, and help ensure a healthy urban forest.”
Fifty magnolias trees will be among those given away. They are highly praised for their graceful spread of white-pink or pink-purple flowers, which are a crowning sight every spring. Likewise, 50 Crape Myrtles, which produce very showy white flowering shoots in the spring and summer, will also be among the lot.
“Crape myrtles have a gorgeous bark that really gets shown off during the winter months,” said Mitchell.
The 50 Witch-Hazels that will be given away provide early yellow flowers.
“When I took a course on bees, most beekeepers were hoping for flower blooms early enough to feed their bees,” Mitchell said. “One of the only options was Witch-Hazels, so they’ll be a great addition to our city, particularly as our climate becomes more unpredictable.”
The tree giveaway events also generate lasting memories.
“At 4BNPA’s giveaway last fall, there were triplets who were absolutely enamored with trees, and their parents were so excited to help them learn and to plant trees at their home,” Mitchell said. “Each of the boys was able to adopt a tree. There is nothing I like to see more than young, intelligent people who exhibit genuine interest in our living world.”
Volunteer Steve Goodman is also designing tree adoption certificates. Trees will be named after local historic sites such as the Forest Hills Theatre, notable local figures such as architect Grosvenor Atterbury and Helen Keller, and historic street names such as Roman Avenue (72nd Avenue) and Ascan Avenue.
In addition to the 4BNPA, there will be volunteers from Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Trylon Vet Care, the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, Forest Hills Jewish Center, Parker Towers, and Key Food.