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Urban Planting with MillionTreesNYC

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2009

MillionTreesNYC, one of 127 PlaNYC initiatives, is a citywide, public-private program with an ambitious goal: to plant and care for one million new trees across the city's five boroughs over the next decade.

By planting one million trees, New York City can increase its urban forest -- a valuable environmental asset made up of street trees, park trees, and trees on public, private and commercial land -- by an astounding 20 percent, while achieving many quality-of-life benefits that come with planting trees.

The city will plant 60 percent of the trees in parks and other public spaces. The other 40 percent will come from private organizations, homeowners, and community organizations. The program started in 2007 and to date has planted more than 174,000 trees.

Environmental Benefits of Trees
The environmental benefits provided by trees are numerous.

Water Quality Protection
Urban trees capture rainfall on their leaves and branches and take up water, acting as natural storm water capture and retention devices. Street trees intercept 890.6 million gallons of storm water annually, or 1,525 gallons per tree on average. The total value of this benefit to New York City is more than 35 million dollars each year.

Improved Air Quality
Trees remove dust and other pollutants from the air. In fact, one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually -- the emissions caused by driving a car 11,000 miles.

Lower Summer Air Temperature
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, urban forests reduce urban temperatures significantly by shading buildings and concrete and returning humidity to the air through evaporative cooling.

Natural Resource Conservation
By using trees to modify temperatures, the amount of fossil fuels used for cooling and heating by homeowners and businesses is reduced. New York City street trees provide 27 million dollars a year in energy savings.

Health Benefits of Trees
There is strong evidence suggesting that trees help reduce air pollutants that can trigger asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Green spaces also encourage physical activity -- a healthy habit for everyone.

The New York City Parks Department has established six target neighborhoods that have been identified as neighborhoods in greatest need for trees: Hunts Point, Bronx; Morrisania, Bronx; East New York, Brooklyn; East Harlem, Manhattan; Rockaways, Queens; and Stapleton, Staten Island.

The six neighborhoods -- referred to as Trees for Public Health neighborhoods (TPH) -- were selected because they have fewer-than-average street trees and higher-than-average rates of asthma among young people. It is believed that additional trees in these neighborhoods will reduce the pollutants that trigger respiratory disorders and contribute to healthier living standards.

Economic Benefits of Trees
Trees aren't just good for your health; they're good for your pocketbook as well.

High Return of Investment
Over the years, New York City has invested millions in its urban forest. Trees provide $5.60 in benefits for every dollar spent on tree planting and care.

Increased Property Values
A significant link exists between the value of a property and its proximity to parks, greenbelts, and other green spaces. Smart Money magazine indicated that consumers value a landscaped home up to 11.3 percent higher than its base price. Street trees provide $52 million each year in increased property values.

Community and Business-District Appeal
The greening of business districts increases community pride and positive perception of an area, drawing customers to the businesses.

Resources
Special thanks to Adrian Benepe, the commissioner of New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation, for sharing this information. If you live in New York City and plant a tree in your yard or neighborhood, register it on the MillionTreesNYC website -- milliontreesnyc.org -- so it can be counted toward the goal. Take advantage of the One in a Million Tree Coupon Program to receive a $20 discount on a 1-inch caliper or larger tree at a participating New York City nursery or garden center.

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