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Thread: The Value of Trees

  1. #1

    Default The Value of Trees

    May 12, 2003

    Get That Oak an Accountant


    If trees had cocktail parties, the 40-year-old Callery pear that grows on Rivington Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, could certainly hold its own.

    It might introduce itself by its formal name, Pyrus calleryana, and brag about its trunk diameter (25.4 inches), its height (24 feet) and its impressive shade canopy (1,746 square feet).

    If the tacky "How much do you make?" question came up, the pear tree could document its net worth at $1,192, and say that some of its earnings come from the 527.67 grams of pollutants it saves from human lungs every year, a value to society that economists put at $2.59. These figures would surely send the out-of-town trees fishing forlornly for the acorns in their martinis.

    Actually, these arboreal achievements are known because the pear tree was one of 322 New York City street trees included in a recent pilot project called the Neighborhood Tree Survey. The count, conducted by community and research organizations, examined trees from the South Bronx, the Lower East Side and northern Staten Island.

    Unlike many tree tallies, this one compiled extensive information with an ambitious goal some tree-huggers might consider crudely capitalistic: to break down each tree, its parts and its labor, into dollars and cents. Money has yet to grow on trees, but trees can provide crucial de-pollution services quantifiable in cold, hard cash.

    Most broadly, the survey concluded that the 322 trees had an average value of $3,225 per tree and a total value of $1,038,458. The value was said to be the amount the city would have to pay to replace the tree. The most expensive one, a 214-year-old tulip tree on Fillmore Street on Staten Island, came in at $23,069, while a scrawny 6-year-old ginkgo on Hunts Point Avenue in the South Bronx brought up the rear, at $54.

    "We hope that the price tags will help people realize the real value of street trees as assets and financial investments, as well as foster a sense of public stewardship," said Steven Romalewski, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which helped run the survey.

    The survey broke down the monetary value of services the trees provided as pollution cleaners through natural respiration.

    For example, that Staten Island tulip tree scrubs $34.33 worth of pollutants per year from the air, the survey said. Researchers concluded that all trees in these areas removed $814,000 worth of pollution per year — 143 tons kept from New York lungs.

    According to Mr. Romalewski, New Yorkers need to better acquaint themselves with their street trees, perhaps even care for them. In a city where nothing impresses like cash, the tree price tags help to put the introductions in a language New Yorkers understand. It also may be helpful in getting city government and private groups to invest in maintenance and planting.

    Though it did not participate in the survey, the Parks Department may use it as a model for its citywide tree survey planned for 2005, said Fiona S. Watt, the department's chief of forestry and horticulture. "We'd like to see it replicated citywide," she said.

    "People always knew there was some vague benefit to trees, but you could never quantify it," Ms. Watt said. "But once you have the methodology to equate trees with dollars, now you're talking. It's no longer about hugging trees because they're good, but because you have hard data in a language more effective in the public dialogue."

    The city currently values its estimated 5 million trees at about $1,000 each and credits them with $9.5 million a year in antipollution benefits. But thousands of trees are lost to the city's peculiar stresses each year, including constant assault from pollution, vandalism, dog waste, poor soil in compacted spaces, lack of water and sunlight, and blows from cars and trucks.

    Faced with a dwindling tree population in the mid-1990's, the city has planted about 100,000 street trees since 1997 and has removed about 50,000 dead ones, Ms. Watt said. But smaller budgets have slowed this. The city allocated funds for 10,000 tree plantings in fiscal year 2003, compared with 19,000 plantings in 2000, she said. In dollars, the city has budgeted only $3.8 million for tree plantings in fiscal year 2004, compared with $7 million in 2003. The average cost of putting a tree in a sidewalk pit is $590.

    But a tree's fiscal worth is not easily quantified. Environmentalists have long argued that their value is far-reaching and often obscure. They cool the city, saving millions of dollars in air-conditioning bills. By buffering rainstorms, they prevent the need for larger, costlier storm-water runoff systems. Leafy blocks mean higher real estate prices and can draw shoppers to commercial areas. And then there are the many aesthetic intangibles. For example, what price a bird's song?

    "Trees are working hard for us every day, and this is giving a bit of recognition back to them," said Matthew Arnn, a landscape architect who directs the New York City Metro Initiative, a United States Forest Service program. "Maybe with a real, hard dollar value on street trees, people will see them as more than just street furniture and that they can pay real dividends."

    The Neighborhood Tree Survey organizers trained 29 volunteer citizen pruners to examine the trees and log the data on hand-held computers, for compilation in an online mapping system. For balance, organizers chose a lush suburban area on Staten Island, an area in the South Bronx, and a densely populated neighborhood in Lower Manhattan.

    They recorded tree dimensions like height and trunk diameter, and the amount of shade produced. From these, researchers calculated the less obvious categories, like the amount of sulfur dioxide each tree absorbs and how much isoprene it emits.

    "A healthy, growing tree is essentially a pollution-eating device and a mini air-conditioner," said David J. Nowak, a project leader for the Forest Service, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture. According to Mr. Nowak, who helped analyze and calculate the data, a growing tree, as part of its respiration, takes in carbon dioxide and emits oxygen. It stores carbon and absorbs or catches other gaseous and particle pollution, including the carbon monoxide prevalent in vehicle exhaust, and nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone.

    American Forests, a Washington-based advocacy group, has done studies of other United States cities, calculating the values of urban trees. Its executive director, Deborah Gangloff, said that New York's Neighborhood Tree Survey numbers were not surprising.

    "The ecological value of America's urban forests are worth $4 billion annually, in terms of clean air and water," Ms. Gangloff said. "A tree does more work for people in a city, so it's worth more in Manhattan. Then again, it's a tough place to be a tree."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2


    April 3, 2004

    Tree Planting in Manhattan Is Halted by Dispute


    Like many New Yorkers, Mary-Lynne Peluso waited for years for the city to replace a tree felled by delivery truck damage in her neighborhood near Gramercy Park. Finally, the empty pit where it once stood came up on the list and, after a site visit from a Parks Department employee, a sephora sapling was due to arrive at the beginning of spring.

    "I try to make sure that the trees are taken care of near my house," Ms. Peluso said. "I've been working on this for a long time."

    But now, because of what the parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, called "a bureaucratic decision that has a punishing effect on tree-lovers and taxpayers," Ms. Peluso will have to wait at least until fall for that sephora. Last summer, the city's comptroller, William C. Thompson, ruled that contractors hired to plant trees must employ a different, and more expensive, kind of worker.

    That decision, coupled with a recent Parks Department appeal, has so delayed the contract bidding process that Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn and Queens will probably miss the entire spring tree-planting season, Mr. Benepe said. And because the cost of planting a single tree will now rise to about $1,000 from $750, a result will most likely be fewer shade-providing branches.

    "Hundreds of trees won't get planted, which is a bad thing, but the worst thing obviously is that the price will increase dramatically, which means we'll be planting fewer trees at higher costs," Mr. Benepe said.

    Mr. Thompson ruled that instead of hiring contractors who employ gardeners, at a cost of $15 an hour to plant trees, the Parks Department must use contractors who employ laborers at a cost of $40 an hour.

    An official in the comptroller's office said that although gardener-growers are permitted to perform routine maintenance on public property and in front of public buildings, the decision was made to require use of the laborers because many street tree-plantings in front of private property are paid for out of the capital budget. "There's the expectation that there is no maintenance involved, but that it's construction," the official said, meaning a laborer is required. Parks Department officials contested the ruling but recently lost their case, and solicited bids under the new terms this week.

    As a result, Mr. Benepe said, the 650 or so trees they expected to plant this spring throughout Manhattan and in Ridgewood, Queens, and Bushwick, Brooklyn, will have to wait until fall, and will probably be reduced to about 400. The new requirement will also affect other contracts for planting trees throughout the city in the future, Mr. Benepe said.

    The department has been planting from 7,000 to 10,000 trees a year citywide, he said, just ahead of the 7,000 or so trees that die. "We were staying ahead of the dead-tree curve," he said. "The bottom line is there will be more trees dying than replaced."

    Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, whose staff tried to catalog spots begging for a tree in her Upper West Side district before submitting a wish list to the department, said she l had been surprised to earn of the labor trouble from a resident in a bordering district. "I hadn't heard this in a hearing or testimony," she said.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  3. #3


    April 28, 2004


    A Tree Trimmed in Brooklyn


    The tree surgeon spoke in whispers, as if to keep the nearby trees from overhearing. "You've gotta be careful about how you cut these trees," he said. "If you take off too big a piece and leave too big a wound, rot seeps in and the tree dies." This would be very bad. The 65-foot locust trees in question are surrounded by Brooklyn rowhouses and would cause a great deal of damage — not to mention lawsuits — if they fell.

    "You can't take too much off the top," the surgeon warned. The trees sense the loss of foliage and feel attacked, then react by rushing up waves of new branches. So the garden below is left in deeper shadow than before. I had already learned that the hard way.

    Back in the mid-1990's, a less cautious tree surgeon had lopped off a massive chunk of the tree, right up near the top. I planted a lovely rose garden, then set about feeding, spraying, pruning and cajoling, as rose gardeners generally do. Within a few years, the tree came screaming back, spreading rose-killing darkness across the yard. All but one of the bushes were snuffed out.

    Gardens darkened by trees are a common problem in brownstone Brooklyn, where adjoining yards are located behind rowhouses that form a natural windbreak. Protected from storms, road salt and pollution, even fragile trees can thrive, reaching heights of 70 feet or more.

    Big trees are hungry trees, especially in the poor soil found in the city. The honey locust, for example, sucks the yard dry of nutrients with roots as big around as fire hoses. Some annuals can be coaxed into growing at the base of the tree, but only through the frank use of cow manure. Shrubs tend to struggle and die in the shadow of a tree.

    People who live under such trees commonly give up on gardening. They pave over their yards or plant them with nondescript ground cover that seems to grow in the dark. My household is not ready to surrender. But the plan for the new, improved garden — with new plants growing in fertile, trucked-in dirt — will founder unless we can wrest more sunlight away from the two gargantuan locust trees that border my yard on the east and west.

    This latest tree surgeon was craftier than the first one. The secret, he said, was to trim substantially while tricking the tree into believing it was just a manicure. He scampered up the eastern tree and spent several hours trimming smaller low-hanging branches that the tree was less likely to miss.

    By the end of the afternoon, the yard was substantially lighter, with the promise of more light to come when the western tree is trimmed as well. Phase 2 of the project — new dirt and new plants — begins soon. But I plan to hold off on new roses for a while, to see how the light pans out.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  4. #4


    April 29, 2004


    Pastel Clouds, Smelling of Honey


    THE crab apple trees are in full bloom along the Hudson. They look like pink clouds floating down Riverside Park. They are blooming all over New York City, in shades of carmine, pale pink and white.

    For about two weeks, the air smells like honey.

    "I shouldn't say this, but these low branches make this one perfect to climb," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said last week. He patted a wide branch on a tree standing near the entrance to the park at Riverside Drive and 99th Street. Bumblebees were hovering over pink buds that were just breaking open to reveal satiny white petals and yellow stamens.

    Mr. Benepe, 47, stuck his nose in a blossom. "That perfume," he said. "And they're so comforting to sit under." He used to play under this tree with his little sister, Jennifer, when they lived in a big apartment building across Riverside Drive.

    "When it was time to go home, my mother would lean out the window and call us," he said. She liked to sit on a bench and breathe in the fragrance when all the trees were blooming along the river. When she died three years ago, just before Sept. 11, her family planted a young crab apple opposite her favorite bench.

    It has long been Mr. Benepe's ambition to restore the city's vintage crab apple collection, comprising thousands of trees of many different varieties first planted in the 1930's. These are the old-time trees with multiple trunks that branch low to the ground. They have developed broad arms with age and spreading canopies as wide as the trees are tall.

    "Not like these lollipops everyone plants so they can mow under them," Mr. Benepe said. Many of the originals have succumbed to disease, pollution or old age. Others are so hardy that the Parks Department plans to propagate them from cuttings or even tissue culture. Last spring, it began a restoration program that will replace hundreds of trees in the next few years.

    Some of the most venerable beauties are now blooming in the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, near Fifth Avenue and 105th Street. Crab apple allées — two double rows — flank the formal lawn that sweeps up to the wisteria arbor with its clipped hedges of white spirea. If you duck into one allée, where park benches sit beneath the craggy trunks, you enter a mystical world, where the jagged branches of the old trees appear to dance, as if inhabited by joyful spirits. The satiny flowers, blooming against dark wood, form a scrim against the blue sky. The only thing to do is sit down on a bench and just breathe for a while.

    Another crab apple worth worshiping in the Conservatory Garden stands to the south, in its own Secret Garden, named after Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children's book. The tree has multiple trunks about five feet in diameter, with a wide branch that stretches clear across the little pool where Mary and Dickon, Burnett's characters, have been immortalized — or arrested, it almost seems — in a bronze fountain.

    This tree is a mystery even to Fiona Watt, the chief of forestry and horticulture at the Parks Department, who has researched the city's crab apples with the passion of a green Sherlock Holmes. "It's not a floribunda," she said, looking up at the pale pink buds and white petals. Its three trunks all swing low to the ground, then form branches going this way and that across the sky.

    "This is clearly a great specimen and probably one of the originals planted in 1937," Ms. Watt said. "We will be taking cuttings or reproducing it clonally."

    The city has lost about half of the crab apples that were originally planted. "And when we started to replant, we realized the replacements didn't look anything like the originals," Mr. Benepe said.

    Nurseries rarely carry these old-time clumping varieties, with wide spreading habits. So Ms. Watt, who has a master's in forestry from Yale, has been doing a little digging. For a year, while attending to her other duties, she pored over plans and planting lists at the Olmsted Center in Queens, discovering not only the astounding number of varieties the city used, but also how big they were when planted. "Many of them were 10 to 12 feet tall with an 8- to 10-foot spread, with a 42-inch root ball," she said. Those titans were planted in the Depression era by the Works Progress Administration, when Robert Moses was not only commanding armies of otherwise unemployed tree planters but also building an entire arboretum and a lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for the 1939 World's Fair.

    Though most of this forest was obliterated by the Van Wyck Expressway, a fragment still exists along Park Drive East, down a steep embankment overlooking the highway. Last week, Ms. Watt pointed out a few of the original crab apples, stretching their branches toward the light. Their blooms are sparse from neglect and lack of sun.

    But in the tall weeds between woods and highway, hundreds of crab apple trees have self-seeded in the field. Their flowers are white, pink or deep rose. Their leaves vary from grass-green to purplish bronze. Some have upright branches, while others appear to weep.

    "What we have here is a genetic melting pot," Ms. Watt said. "It's our own little Kazakhstan." The mountains of Kazakhstan, in central Asia, are home to both wild apples and wild crab apples, like the ancestors of Rosybloom, now flowering in the Conservatory Garden.

    So who knows what some enterprising botanist, mixing the genes of these wild trees seeding themselves along the Van Wyck Expressway, might produce?

    Meanwhile, the old crab apples are calling — in Riverside and Central Parks, in the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, perhaps in your own backyard. Like life, their moment is fleeting, so wake up and smell them before it's too late.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  5. #5


    June 20, 2004


    A Tree Dies in Brooklyn (Alas, It's a Fig)


    Peter Scotti's earliest memories of Brooklyn are all about figs. "Every house on the block had a fig tree in the back, and a statue of the Virgin Mary or a saint in front," he said.

    For decades, Mr. Scotti, 65, has kept alive his family's tradition of tending to fig trees, which have been in neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, since Italian immigrants started bringing them in the 1880's. But when Mr. Scotti removed the winter "blanket" from his beloved tree this spring, he found only lifeless branches and decided that an electric saw provided the best chance for its survival.

    "Now, that's all that's left," he said, gazing down at a four-foot-tall stump remaining in the corner of his garden on Third Place. A few green leaves emerging from the trunk were hopeful signs.

    Something is killing many of the fig trees in Brooklyn and throughout the city this spring. Theories abound. Many fig tree owners in Carroll Gardens blame the cold winter. Others say the ashes and pollution from Sept. 11 have damaged the soil. And some suspect part of the problem is that newcomers to once heavily Italian neighborhoods like theirs just do not know the intricacies of caring for a tree more suited to the Mediterranean than to New York.

    "Fig trees were treasured," said Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College. "Italians would bring them in as pieces of home. But all of those folk traditions are unfortunately waning."

    Dr. Scelsa said that as the "old-timers" age and die, and younger generations of Italian-Americans move on to different neighborhoods, the family fig tree could disappear.

    The demographics of the city are certainly changing. The number of New Yorkers who claimed Italian descent fell to about 700,000, according to the 2000 census, from about 840,000 in 1990 and more than a million a decade before that.

    Shifting demographics aside, the fig's sensitive nature may also be contributing to its decline. Native primarily to Asia, figs flourish in warm temperate climates. Ever since immigrants brought the trees from areas like southern Italy and Sicily, people have labored to protect them from the harsh New York winters. Generations of New Yorkers have wrapped their trees in burlap, tarpaper or blankets, often covering the top with a bucket. Others bend their fig trees over and bury the tops in the ground during the winter.

    Those willing to do the work have been rewarded with plump figs year after year.

    So why did so many trees die at once?

    "I think what happened this winter is, if the ground stays frozen for too long and there's no moisture available, they die," said the director of horticulture for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Jackie Fazio. "We have no control over Mother Nature."

    All four of the botanic garden's fig trees survived this year, she said, but some casualties are to be expected. She warned against overreacting to "die back," or leafless branches, because the trunk may still be alive.

    Still, Ms. Fazio understands the current uproar.

    "People are so particular about their fig trees. Because they're not from the area, they're really proud to have them," she said. "So they get really upset when they die."

    For another Carroll Gardens resident, Assunta Cuomo, upset is an understatement.

    "All dry, nothing green," said Mrs. Cuomo, who recently discovered that both of her trees had died this winter. "They used to be beautiful, and big."

    This will be the first time in 25 years that she has not had a fig tree in her backyard on Henry Street, said Mrs. Cuomo, who moved to Brooklyn from the Salerno province of Italy. Her garden brims with eggplants, tomato plants, basil, peppers and string beans. But she took out both fig trees that died, she said, and it's not the same without them.

    Still, she has hope for the future. Green fig leaves are sprouting up from the dirt near the tiny stump in her garden.

    Mr. Scotti said he expected to have plump, ripe figs again in three years. But as he pointed out his neighbors' five dead or ailing fig trees, he said the future of figs in Brooklyn was uncertain.

    "It's the old Italians here that keep the figs, and the neighborhood has changed," he said. "We became the old people."

    Mr. Scotti and his wife, Barbara, said that the young professionals moving into the neighborhood were "very nice," and that they love to see children running around again. Still, they do not expect new residents to replace the fig trees that died this year.

    "Naw, the new people, they're too busy,'' he said. "They don't have the time to work in their yards all of the time."

    As he walked through the neighborhood, pointing out more fig tree casualties, he spotted a younger resident and asked her if she had anything to say about the local fig trees.

    "Fig trees? I've never seen a fig tree around here," she told him.

    "What are you talking about?" he said. "You've been living here for 20 years."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  6. #6


    Gotham Gazette -

    Urban Forestry's New York City Roots

    by Sam Williams

    August 08, 2004

    It was 84 degrees in Manhattan with humidity just under 80 percent, but the hikers wouldn't know it standing in the middle of Inwood Hill Park.

    With trees rising as high as 140 feet in the air, blocking out sunlight while leaving just enough head room to catch the occasional wind draft, they could feel the summer warmth, but didn't have to wear it like a blanket. Manhattan might as well have been a thousand miles away. But of course, it wasn't. Inwood Hill Park is in Manhattan.

    "I'm pleased with it," said Tim Wenskus, a biologist with the New York City Department of Parks Natural Resources Group and the man in charge of making sure this forest in the northern tip of the island remains tranquil.

    "You should be," said Mark McDonnell, associate professor and divisional director of the Australian Research Center for Urban Ecology. "You've done a great job."

    Both Wenskus and McDonnell are urban foresters, a small but growing group of scientists who believe habitats such as this one are just as deserving of study and protection as anything you'd find in the Amazon rainforest.

    The four men on the hike were having something of a reunion. In the 1980s, Mark McDonnell helped dig and document the many plots the group is now revisiting, in the city that provided a North American launching pad for the field of urban forestry 20 years ago.

    "Traditionally, ecologists never looked at cities," said Richard Pouyat, who now works at the Forest Service. "We always looked at areas where people weren't living. Mark was really a pioneer of looking at cities as their own ecosystems. Twenty years later, people have come around to his point of view."

    Trees do more than provide an aesthetic backdrop in city environments. Urban environments, once denuded of native vegetation, become dangerous heat conductors, a phenomenon called the "heat island" effect. Coupled with the heat displaced by air conditioners, urban environments like Manhattan average daily temperatures 10 degrees hotter than surrounding regions.

    "If you want to see the effects of global warming, just look at any big city," McDonnell said. "At a local scale, it's just pure environmental change."

    The first sign of change, notes McDonnell, is the rapid loss of native species evolved to survive in a more temperate climate. In Tokyo, the disappearance of birds and insects has prompted some businesses to install outdoor speakers to supply the missing sounds. Here in New York City, native hardwoods such as oak, hazel, sassafras and the tulip tree, a fast growing eastern giant that can age up to 300 years, are giving way to invasive immigrants such as ailanthus, Norway maple, and a host of exotic vines and worms.

    Then again, the central paradox (and saving grace) of urban ecology is the fact that urban forests often provide the most faithful glimpse of what primeval forests once looked like before industrialization.

    The reason is simple: City dwellers, starting in New York City, were the first to witness the consequences of rampant overdevelopment. To maintain a semblance of contact with nature, 19th century civic leaders pressed for parks development, effectively creating a museum of native ecosystems. In terms of species distribution, the trees you find in Central Park and Inwood Hill offer a more authentic glimpse at the pre-Columbian ecology of North America than most upstate forests, where logging and agriculture continued unabated until well into the 20th century.

    "It's a worldwide phenomenon," says McDonnell. "All cities have older trees than the surrounding countryside because that's where the protection started."

    This paradox is the chief explanation for the "Lord of the Rings"-like canopy here at Inwood Hill. Though its 200 acre habitat is microscopic compared to state preserves like Adirondack or Catskill Park, it exudes a majesty that puts other northeastern forests to shame, with towering trees that in upstate forests would have been cut down and hauled off to the mill a long time ago.

    Such majesty puts pressure on forest managers like Wenskus, however. Every time a giant oak or tulip tree dies, there is a natural rush to fill the gap. Invasive species like Norway maple and porcelain berry enjoy an advantage in this race because they can smother out smaller plants' sunlight, killing off the plants that help make soil chemistry favorable to natives. Biologists and managers with the parks department's Natural Resources Group use a variety of tactics to keep invasive species at bay. Still, Wensus says, they can only do so much. Forestry is not gardening, and even if the group had the resources to treat it as such, native species must ultimately fend for themselves.

    As proof of that stoic philosophy, Winkus pointed to a fist-thick porcelain berry vine running all the way up a middle-aged oak and shook his head sadly. Only two outcomes are possible at this stage: Either the vine will die on its own or the tree will succumb because of diminished sunlight.

    "Porcelain berry grows so fast," he said. "It's a bad customer."

    If invasive species share a common characteristic, it's their ability to grow fast and look good doing it. Porcelain berry, for example, is a relative of the grape and can quickly transform a backyard into a leafy arbor. Norway maple throws out a dense, low-to-the-ground leaf cover, perfect for sun baked sidewalks, less perfect for native woodlands. Lately, however, the tree has come under attack by yet another immigrant, the Asian longhorn beetle, diminishing migratory pressure on local woodlands.

    Other young, upwardly-mobile plant species include European White Poplar -- "Robert Moses's favorite," grumbles McDonnell -- and ailanthus, a scrappy weedlike tree sometimes known as the "tree of heaven."

    For a patient forester, however, the signs are encouraging. Twenty years ago, wrecked cars littered the undergrowth and periodic fires killed off promising adult trees in Hunter Island, part of Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, which was the next stop on the group's tour. Now the forest is protected by firebreaks and barred to vehicle traffic. Native plants are getting a chance to push the canopy upward, allowing room for a thick underbrush. It isn't Inwood Hill Park but in a few more years you might be able to find yourself visiting this corner of the city and wondering if it has been untouched since the 17th century.

    "In all honesty, the best stuff is the stuff you can't tell apart from nature," said Wenskus, summing up his work and the general goal of the Natural Resources Group. "If it looks like nature made it, I figure I did my job right."

  7. #7


    Washingtons and the Cherry Tree

    by Tom Acitelli Published: July 17, 2007

    This article was published in the July 22, 2007, edition of The New York Observer.

    What’s a tree worth to a New York City homeowner? How about a park nearby?

    In this era of green wisdom, the answer still isn’t quite clear. Unlike the environmental benefits (easier to empirically quantify) and the aesthetic benefits (impossible to measure but understood implicitly by every urban dweller since time immemorial), the financial benefits to homeowners of trees and of parks are not concrete.

    Yes, living on Central Park or Riverside Park—or a handful of other noteworthy expanses—can give homeowners stratospheric value for their four walls and a ceiling. But what of the simple tree on the sidewalk outside of the apartment building or townhouse not on Gold Coast Fifth Avenue or Gramercy Park North?

    That tree, depending on what kind it is, gives at least some value to nearby private property.

    The Bloomberg administration this past spring released a census of the city’s street trees conducted by a branch of the U.S. Forest Service. The street trees increased property value by an estimated $52.5 million annually, or $90 per tree on average. Basically, a tree is valuable to property owners in proportion to the amount of leaf coverage it can provide yearly; so, mature trees, those that have more or less grown as far as they can go, are less valuable in the long run than younger trees with many growth spurts to come.

    So, the census explained, “a very young population of 100 callery pears will have a greater annual aesthetic benefit than an equal number of mature planetrees.”

    The actual property value added by a callery tree reaches more than $120 annually, according to the census. At the other end of the botanical spectrum, a cherry tree adds $18.35 in value annually.

    (The most common type of street tree, the census concluded, was the London planetree, followed by the Norway maple; together, they accounted for nearly 30 percent of the city’s street trees.)

    And what about parks, veritable breeding grounds for these tree species? Proximity matters, sometimes to a minute degree.

    Sarah Nicholls, an assistant geography professor at Michigan State University, wrote an article for the National Recreation and Park Association on the impact of parks on property value. Citing a study in Portland, Oregon, she wrote, “193 public parks ranging in size from 0.2 to 567.8 acres were, as a group, found to have a significant positive impact on the value of properties within a straight-line distance of 1,500 feet.”

    Properties even closer catch more of a financial boost, Ms. Nicholls wrote. “Further analysis of 115 of these urban parks … found that the greatest premiums (of 2 to 3 percent of value) occurred for homes within 800 feet of a park; beyond 800 feet, there was no significant property value impact.”

    Ms. Nicholls recommended that The Observer contact the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land for similar studies on the influence of New York City parks on home values, and a top official at the Trust said he wasn’t aware of any; the city Parks Department said it does not keep such data. The branch of the U.S. Forest Service that did the tree census did not have the data either.

    But, just as with trees rising from the sidewalk, parks do give city homeowners a boost, whatever the end amounts. As with those in Portland, however, the benefits depend on where you are.

    Early results of a study by the Friends of Hudson River Park show a positive effect on property values for those homes nearest the first completed leg, which stretches from Horatio Street to just north of Houston Street in the West Village. The nonprofit’s president, Albert Butzel, said that property values have gone up by as much as 15 percent in homes within three blocks of the park, according to the preliminary results, especially after that initial leg opened in 2003. The Friends of Hudson River Park used home sales data from 1990 through 2005 in its ongoing study.

    Such studies on the financial benefits of green aren’t anything new to the city, of course. They stretch back to at least the mid-19th century, when the great architect of Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, beheld his creation and the benefits it provided in property-tax revenue (and property-tax revenue is tied to property value).

    “While the property in the other nineteen wards of the city increased but twofold, the property of the three wards in which Central Park was located advanced from about $26.5 millions to over $312 millions,” Mr. Olmsted, then parks commissioner, wrote in 1888, over 10 years after Central Park’s opening. “Whereas before the making of the park, these three wards paid one dollar in every thirteen received as taxes, after the making of the park they paid one-third of the entire expenses of the city, and this notwithstanding the fact that the taking of the ground for Central Park removed 10,000 lots from tax books of the city.”

    That’s some green, then and (generally) now.

    Copyright © 2007 The New York Observer. All rights reserved.

  8. #8


    April 21, 2008, 10:57 am

    Who Is Against Planting Trees?

    By Susan Dominus

    Working as a forester in New York, “you get your head screamed off at times — a lot of times,” says Erin Roche, 24, a senior forester for Brooklyn. She is one of the 40-or-so foresters who work for the city Parks and Recreation Department. For every one of those million trees the mayor has announced he would like to see planted in New York City by the year 2017, there’s apparently a reason people don’t want them in front of their homes. The struggle between city workers who plant trees and the city residents who do not want them planted was the topic of today’s Big City column.

    People worry about being held responsible for the cost of fixing sidewalks that have heaved up from wayward tree roots, but now, Ms. Roche assures them that the city will pay for those repairs if the damage is bad (that wasn’t always the case).

    For the caller who worried about a tree branch falling on his car, she assured him the city has every tree on a seven-year pruning cycle.

    There’s only one complaint she cannot resolve, and that’s the one involving dogs and what it is that they love about trees (hint: it’s not their air-filtering canopies).

    “The dog issue is huge,” Ms. Roche said.

    When people complain about the mess dogs make, the best she can do is point out that it’s a small price to pay for a greener, healthier city. But of all the complaints she gets, she’ll admit, “That’s the toughest one.”

    April 21, 2008

    Big City

    For Urban Tree Planters, Concrete Is the Easy Part

    Rob Bennett for The New York Times

    The city’s efforts to add more green to the streetscape often
    meet with resistance from residents.


    Arthur Simpson, a professional forester, always thought that everyone likes a tree.

    Then he moved to New York.

    “It’s not unusual for people to say they don’t want it,” said Mr. Simpson, the “it” referring to whatever tree the city has resolved to plant in a swatch of sidewalk or other public space. Mr. Simpson is privy to some of those objections because he works for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, one of 40 or so foresters helping to execute Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s million-tree initiative, a plan the mayor announced (one year ago this week) to blitz the city’s five boroughs with a million trees by the year 2017.

    If you’re a forester perversely inclined to ply your trade in New York City, the initiative makes now a pretty good time to make a go of it. The city hired 24 foresters in the past year, a good majority of them hailing from places where trees are not exactly controversial. Mr. Simpson, 32, lived and worked in the open spaces of Montana, Oregon and, most recently, Arizona, before hitting it off with a New York-based opera singer whom he met at a party. Now he lives in Queens.

    All told, Mr. Simpson has adjusted well to his new urban habitat: He’s got some family in the area, and in the past year he’s even been to five operas, five more than he’d ever seen before moving to the city. A laid-back, fleece-wearing, barely shaven kind of guy, your typical central-casting kind of forester, Mr. Simpson has been really surprised by only one aspect of New York City life, and that’s the unwelcome reception he sometimes get at the site of an imminent tree-planting.

    Sometimes the residents or homeowners are worried about their allergies (though the trees are intended to help alleviate asthma and allergy rates citywide); sometimes they’re worried that a branch will fall on their car (a call to 311 will procure a free pruning). Sometimes they’re worried about the extensive construction required to plant a tree in a patch of concrete.

    A few months back, Mr. Simpson, one of the foresters overseeing contractors in Manhattan, found himself in Harlem, trying to placate an elderly, elegantly suited gentleman who was concerned that the roots of the tree to be planted in front of his brownstone would penetrate an underground vault he’d built attached to his home. And all those leaves — wasn’t he going to be responsible for cleaning them up? (That would be yes.) And could he be fined if he didn’t? (Theoretically yes, but the city intercedes in only the most egregious cases.)

    The homeowner was so incensed, he cut out a piece of cardboard to protect his clothes, placed it in the pit that had been dug for the tree and planted himself firmly in the hole. Mr. Simpson made his favorite tree-loving arguments — they improve property values, they make the air cleaner, they keep houses cooler in summer and warmer in winter — but nothing would persuade the man to leave.

    The sit-in eventually disbanded after Bram Gunther, the city’s deputy chief of forestry and horticulture, and William Castro, the Manhattan borough commissioner for the parks department, made a (rare) concession, agreeing that no tree would be planted there until further consideration.

    For Mr. Simpson, it was an education in New York thinking. “It’s O.K. if we ask for it, but you can’t tell us we have to have it,” he summarized.

    So add tree publicist to the job experience of the New York forester, as well as other, more traditional urban foresters’ tasks: choosing the species of tree appropriate for a space, checking and double-checking the width and depth of the pit, and whether it’s far enough from fire hydrants, pipes and electrical wires.

    Because this is New York, the job has required even a little bit of model management, as occurred the week before last, when “The Tyra Banks Show” decided its host should plant a tree as part of her campaign to do 500 good deeds. Mr. Simpson found Ms. Banks and her two “America’s Next Top Model” sidekicks lovely, “but they didn’t know how to use a shovel,” he noted, as if that were a strange and unexpected insight. Because the timing of the filmed segment wouldn’t allow for the time it takes to plant a tree according to code, “once they were gone, we dug it back up and planted it properly,” Mr. Simpson said.

    The pleasures of the job for him are numerous, among them the sense that he has “one of the few jobs that let you have a physical impact on the city of New York, the way it looks now, and the way it’ll look in the future.”

    While his colleagues out West are roaming among the redwoods, Mr. Simpson is often looking for a parking space. But somehow, between the parks and the trees he sees every day, Mr. Simpson said, “I do feel very at home.”


    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  9. #9


    People are scum in this city who cut down trees, in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn people cut down the trees in front of their homes and poured concrete their place. Lack of trees is the single worst thing you can do to a neighborhood.

  10. #10
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    You don't like trees but move to NYC?


    If it's wide open spaces you want then move to Kansas

  11. #11
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    I love that lady behind teh grate seeming to be snarling at the forrester.

    I can understand people worrying about roots, that would be the only thing I would be concerned about, but that one old guy concerned about his vault? I wonder if he had permits and zoning for that vault....

    I love the comment about top model though. Having to dig it back up and do it right after they left. Classic!

    As for Brooklyn, I wonder what the hell these people were thinking. Maybe they just did not like the species that was planted (some are really irritating, tike the black Walnut that can poison the soil for other plants, and drop HUGE green baseball sized nuts on the lawn and anything below. There is also that one that drops spikey things, and some that have rather staining foliage/flowers). But for them to concrete up the hole? They should be fined for that kind of thing! You take a tree down, you put another in its place.

    Nevermind Kansas Loft, there are areas of Newark and Linden (I believe) that would do just fine. Concrete and asphalt as far as you look. Great on a hot summer day!

  12. #12


    City gets a tree-t and $10M green gift

    Wednesday, April 23rd 2008, 4:00 AM

    Schwartz for News
    David Rockefeller and Mayor Bloomberg each donated $5 million and planted trees in Harlem as part of Earth Day.

    Eco-friendly Mayor Bloomberg and philanthropist David Rockefeller marked Earth Day on Tuesday by pledging $10 million to help meet the city's target of planting 1 million trees.

    The donations, at $5 million each, will be put toward greening six deprived neighborhoods in the five boroughs and will bring more than 18,000 new trees to public spaces, schools and housing projects.

    "We're all in this together, and we shouldn't wait for others to do it,"

    Bloomberg said in Harlem at one of several Earth Day events he attended. He also presided at the opening of a luxury "green" condo development and a senior citizens event.

    So far, the city has planted 54,485 trees toward its goal of getting 250,000 in the ground before the mayor leaves office next year.

    The latest windfall will be focused on the tree-starved areas of East New York, Brooklyn; the Rockaways in Queens; Hunts Point and Morrisania in the Bronx; Stapleton on Staten Island, and East Harlem.

    The city was awash with eco-friendly events as maintenance workers changed light bulbs and politicians spoke about the importance of having an eco-conscience.

    Actress and singer Bette Midler got in on the action, planting trees at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. housing development on W. 112th St.

    At Grand Central Terminal, the switch from incandescent light bulbs to more than 1,700 longer-lasting compact fluorescent ones was completed Tuesday.
    On the Verrazano Bridge, teams set about replacing the 262 conventional necklace lights with energy-saving light-emitting diode bulbs shortly after 10 a.m.

    The new bulbs are not only better for the environment but will save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars on utility bills and thousands of dollars in replacement costs.

    The MTA began selling 5 million special, limited-edition green MetroCards, featuring one of five special Earth Day messages on the back.

    "Your carbon footprint is about 1/4 the national average!" reads one.
    "Every full bus keeps 40 cars off the road," says another.

    © Copyright 2008

  13. #13


    March 15, 2009

    Another Assault on the Trees
    in an Upper Manhattan Park


    For at least the second time in a year, someone is killing the trees of Inwood Hill Park.

    Parks department employees have discovered 17 destroyed trees in recent weeks, including pines, sugar maples and hackberries, and two young tulip trees, which were chopped down and left to rot.

    An ax might have been used to cut down the tulip trees, which grew in a valley called the Clove, said Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner. The damage to the other trees suggested they were attacked with a machete.

    Earlier this year, a large cottonwood showed signs of girdling — when a tree’s bark is damaged around most of its circumference, which could lead to a slow death — said Jennifer Hoppa, the administrator of northern Manhattan parks.

    People will sometimes cut down trees to improve the views from their apartments, and children might damage trees as they look for wood to, say, build a fort. But the recurring events in the park are something different, Mr. Benepe said: “A methodical serial attack just to kill trees. It’s sad.”

    There are hundreds of plant and tree species in the nearly 200-acre park, the landscape of which was sculpted by glaciers. Inwood Hill Park also contains the last salt marsh and natural forest in Manhattan.

    Last March, 35 eastern red cedars were selectively destroyed in the park, their stumps left sitting amid trees of other species that were not touched in the same grove. In November 2006, 28 cedars were killed in another section of the park.

    The latest attacks muddied the picture: none of the trees were cedars, Ms. Hoppa said. Signs were posted in the neighborhood advertising a $2,000 reward for information about the attacks, and Mr. Benepe said that local residents were organizing a volunteer patrol.

    He and Ms. Hoppa were especially troubled by the loss of the tulip trees, which were planted in the last 10 years near a spot once occupied by a legendary ancestor: a 280-year old tulip tree that died in 1938.

    Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

  14. #14
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    East Midtown


    This is my 'outrage of the week'. What kind of monster would destroy trees?
    I was reading the article on urban forestry and Inwood Hill Park that was posted in 2004 (and wondering why I've never been there); my mind filled with images of glorious, towering old trees. Then I scroll down the page and read this article about someone killing them.

  15. #15
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    They were just practicing for their audition for the show "aXmen"......

    Either that or they are trying a NEW Ryan Styles show, American Lumberjack...

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