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One Million Trees: Planting in New York City

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The social benefits of urban greening are recreational, restorative, visual, and community-centered. Urban gardens provide pesticide-free and affordable produce and cool, green spaces in which to socialize in the warmer months. Environmentally, the benefits are even greater. Habitats can be provided for birds, insects, fish, small mammals, and other organisms. These habitats help prevent soil erosion and absorb rainwater runoff, which can help drainage and keep streets from flooding. And two of the most persistent problems in urban environments—air and noise pollution—can both be offset by screens of trees and shrubs. And then there is the issue of urban heat—the "heat-island effect," in which concrete structures and streets absorb solar radiation and then release it as heat, creating a heat trap in the process.

Plants and trees reduce this effect—directly, by reducing heat against concrete surfaces, and indirectly, by releasing cool air into the environment, a process known as evapotranspirational (ET) cooling, which works best in windy cities such as Chicago, which can take advantage of this method of cooling in the same way they can make use of wind power to generate and store electricity. ET cooling, in turn, has been shown to reduce the use of air conditioners—a major contributor to accelerated global warming rates—in urban areas by as much as 50%. Urban greening is a social and economic, as well as an environmental, imperative.

A million trees in New York City? That's right. Or at least, that's the goal. Stage and screen legend Bette Midler is the founder of the New York Restoration Project, an organization created to maintain the city's public spaces and which has combined forces with the private sector, non-profits, developers, businesses, and individual citizens to try to plant 1 million trees throughout New York's five boroughs by 2017. That would mean adding an additional 20% more trees to the estimated 5 million trees currently in the metropolitan area. This will mean reforesting 2,000 acres of parks and adding rows of trees to urban streetscapes.

The project has already raised $400 million to plant 600,000 trees in the next ten years, and is still looking for funding. The hope is that "everyday New Yorkers" will step up to the bat and take individual and collective responsibility for the 400,000 trees that still need to be planted if the goal is to be reached. The trees will increase property values, revitalize neighborhoods, cool the streets, and reduce the various stresses on people's respiratory systems that are a part of city living—asthma, bronchitis, and other breathing problems.

To learn more about how to get involved, which trees to choose, and how to plant and care for trees in urban environments, visit the links below.

For more information on urban trees go to:

Million Trees NYC:

Arbor Day Foundation:

Department of Natural Resources, 
"The Benefits of Urban Trees":

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