Sunday, April 22, 2007

NYTs hightlights tree initiative by Parks Department

From the NYTs 04/21/07

A Shady Plan by the Mayor That’s Likely to Be Popular

Published: April 22, 2007

Among the list of contentious proposals that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to announce today in his ambitious effort to steer the city toward a greener future, here’s one that is likely to receive little argument: more trees.

The city intends to plant a million trees during the next 10 years, filling every sidewalk vacancy with one and adding thousands to parks and public spaces.

City planners say the additional trees will help clean the air, soak up ozone-depleting carbon dioxide and make the city a little bit cooler in the summer, reducing energy demands.

“We believe this is the most ambitious tree-planting program ever undertaken, certainly by any American city,” said Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding.

The proposal is one of 127 initiatives that the mayor’s staff unveiled yesterday in a briefing with reporters at City Hall. The briefing was held on condition that only the tree-planting proposal be revealed until Mr. Bloomberg announces the full plan in his Earth Day speech today at the American Museum of Natural History.

The plan will provide specifics on achieving and paying for each of the measures, which are intended to ease traffic congestion, increase affordable housing, reclaim contaminated land and improve mass transit as the city prepares to make room for an estimated 1 million new residents during the next two decades.

A key objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Despite Mr. Bloomberg’s efforts to keep the details secret, many elements of the plan have leaked out in recent days, including a controversial measure to charge drivers to enter the busiest areas of Manhattan. Another proposal calls for the creation of an authority to finance major infrastructure improvements and, in the process, wrest some control over large-scale projects from agencies like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation, over which the city has little say.

Few people, however, are likely to object to another tree on their block, especially in areas where concrete overwhelms any hint of green.

The city estimates it has about 5.2 million trees, covering about 24 percent of the five boroughs’ land mass. The national average for cities is about 27 percent. A little more than 592,000 of New York’s trees are planted along the street, and the city would like to increase that number by 210,000 during the next decade.

Joshua Laird, assistant commissioner of planning for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said it will cost about $37 million annually to plant and maintain 1 million more trees.

In addition to cleaner air and reduced energy demands that new trees would bring, Mr. Laird said they also would capture more storm water runoff, reducing pollution in the rivers.

The plan also would require trees to be planted at new developments.

Officials said they hope the program will stop the city’s long history of losing trees to development. Between 1984 and 2002, New York lost some 9,000 acres of vegetative cover, according to city estimates.

“If you think about the history of New York City,” Mr. Doctoroff said, “this fundamentally reverses the history of deforestation that has taken place pretty much since the city was settled.”

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