“Our residents and staff take pride in our trees and gardens, which make this such a unique property in Forest Hills,” said George McGrath, president of the co-op's board of directors. “We have been coordinating bulb plantings for 10 years, and this is the first time we invited residents to plant trees.”
McGrath first learned about the availability of free tulip trees through the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, and sent manager Jose Leon to pick up trees that remained from a fall 2013 tree giveaway event at P.S. 219.
Leon brought his grandson to the planting event this past weekend.
“We are teaching the children how important it is to keep our area nice, and how to get together like a big family, which Forest Hills South is,” he said. “They will grow up and teach their children to do the same.”
Forest Hills South experienced the loss of a number of trees due to recent storms, including Hurricane Sandy, so introducing tulip trees was an ideal fit. They are fast-growing, hardy, and bear colorful flowers.
Residents planted bulbs in the central courtyards between 77th and 78th avenues, and the trees were planted along the garden walkway adjacent to a recently completed parking lot at the corner of 78th Avenue and the Grand Central Parkway.
“I want to participate in every event that I can,” said Migda Cartagena, who moved to Forest Hills South in January, drawn in part by the co-op's landscaping. “It’s fun, and even more fun when everything is in bloom.”
Matt Mandell, a resident since 2000, has participated in many events with his children and wife.
“Since we live in an apartment, this is a rare opportunity for us to do some gardening,” said Mandell, whose five-year-old son Oliver planted tulip bulbs. “In the spring, we walk around and try to figure out which flowers we planted.”
Developed between 1939 and 1941, Forest Hills South was completed during the population boom resulting from the 1939 World’s Fair. The complex contains 604 apartments, and was designed by famed architect Philip Birnbaum.
McGrath said greening the complex has become a focus of the co-op's board.
“We were one of the first in Forest Hills to install white roofs, which reflect 70 percent of sunlight to help keep our buildings cool,” he noted. “The installation costs two-thirds of a traditional asphalt roof. This allows us to retain more capital for future building maintenance and improvements.”
Next weekend, even more tulip bulbs will be planted, and for the holidays a menorah and an evergreen with colored lights will be placed in the central gardens.
“We will be stringing hundreds of white lights on the trees and shrubs throughout the property, have a countdown, and throw a switch that turns on all the lights,” McGrath said. “Then we will go into our community room for a party with hot chocolate and cookies.”