Today’s news:

City a Quarter of the Way to Tree Planting Goal

So far, approximately 250,000 trees have been planted citywide as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Million Trees program, which aims to add that many trees to the city landscape, both in parks and on streets, by the year 2017.

To that end, explained Jeffrey Watson, from the Forestry Division of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, the city is both accepting applications from individual property-owners who want trees in front of their homes and also choosing certain blocks, which are less green than desired, to add trees in groups.

Watson reported on the program during the December meeting of Community Board 14’s Community Environment Committee, which was held in the board office, 810 East 16th Street.

Depending on the community board, individual residents may have to wait a year or two to get their tree, based on the number of requests that are made, Watson said.

As for the block contracts, “We try to identify blocks with a low tree count and a high density of people,” Watson emphasized.

According to Watson, a total of 184 trees were planted in the CB 14 catchment area -- which includes Midwood, Flatbush and portions of Kensingon -- this past fall. Of those, 43, said Watson, had been requested by homeowners, and 141 were planted on blocks identified by the Parks Department. More trees are on the way for spring, 2010, he added.

Beyond planting the trees, the Parks Department wants to do what it can to ensure that they grace the city for years to come. “We are investing a lot of money in the trees,” Watson said. “We really want to make sure they survive.”

The Parks Department selects trees carefully for individual locations, Watson told the group, and tends to choose hardier varieties that can stand up to the vicissitudes of city life.

The agency also tries to keep an eye on contractors who put in the trees, Watson said. The contractors are responsible to care for the trees -- including watering and weeding -- for the first two years after they are planted, he explained, noting that it is “a challenge” to enforce the agency’s requirements. “If they can cut corners, they will,” Watson acknowledged.

At the end of the two-year period, the Parks Department inspects to make sure the tree is living and all the work that should have been done has been completed, Watson went on. Then, he said, “Maintenance passes to the borough.”

The agency is also encouraging volunteerism among city residents. “In the city environment with many challenges, we are reaching out to residents with our stewardship program,” Watson told committee members. Those who enroll in the program, he explained, will receive training in tree care, as well as the necessary tools and a permit from the agency that will allow them to care for street trees. People can even adopt individual trees, Watson said, and keep a record of the care they bestow on them.

Among the responsibilities of the stewards, Watson added, is “mak(ing) sure the soil is not compacted, and remov(ing) weeds.”

Information on the stewardship program is available on line, at http://milliontreesnyc.org/html/programs/stewardship.shtml.

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