Do you like trees? Of course you do! Yesterday, the City Council’s parks committee held a hearing on New York City’s street trees. Here are some fun facts about trees.
1. New York City has a lot of trees. New York City has 5.2 million trees, including more than 600,000 street trees, creating 44,509 acres of tree canopy, covering 21 percent of the city’s land area. Here’s another fun fact: Exactly one year ago today, the city celebrated the planting of the final tree in its MillionTrees NYC initiative, which included 220,000 new street trees since 2007.
2. Trees save more New Yorkers than they kill. According to the U.S. Forest Service, New York City’s trees yield air quality benefits that save an average of eight lives every year. Unfortunately, trees have a shady side: falling arbor occasionally causes fatalities, usually at a rate of less than one person per year. Last year, a delivery cyclist was killed by a falling tree in Red Hook that was being removed by city contractors years after it was damaged in Hurricane Sandy. The storm resulted in 8,577 fallen street trees.
3. It takes a lot of work to maintain New York’s trees. In the last fiscal year, 87,359 street trees were pruned, on track to meet the city’s goal of each tree receiving a pruning every seven years. The city is working through a backlog in its tree stump removal program, though, taking out between 12,000 and 14,000 stumps annually. The department is stumped, though, when it comes to the size of its backlog, last estimated at 25,000: the agency says it will have a more accurate estimate when it releases the results of its tree census next month.
4. Just like humans, trees are counted every ten years. In 1995, the Parks Department began conducting a decennial street tree census. For the latest census, 2,349 “voluntreers” helped collect information about each tree’s species, health, size and other characteristics. From 1995 to 2005, the number of street trees increased by 19 percent. The final tally from last year’s census will be revealed on November 3.
5. New York is about to get an awesome map of its street trees. The city already releases street tree data so people can make their own maps, but latest tree census will include the official Street Tree Map, allowing users to zoom into information about a specific tree and use social media accounts to connect with neighbors who are caring for trees. The public will also be able to use the map to file 311 reports for specific trees. 311 information feeds directly to the Parks Department’s internal Forestry Management System (ForMS) database, which then provides the data for the public Street Tree Map.
6. New York has some Great Trees. In 1985, the city launched its first “Great Tree Search,” asking New Yorkers for suggestions on the city’s most interesting trees. The Parks Department maintains a list of 65 locations throughout the five boroughs that are home to the city’s greatest trees, and writer Allison C. Meier has started a Tumblr that visits each tree and provides a short history of the species and location. The latest tree: a weeping beech in Flushing, named New York’s first “living landmark” by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966.
7. The city thinks a lot about the types of trees it is planting. There are 168 different species of street tree in New York City. In recent years, the Parks Department has developed multi-year contracts with nurseries that grow trees specifically for New York City. Previously, the city had to see what it could get on the market, and sometimes it wasn’t the best tree for the job—perhaps it wasn’t leafy enough, or it had roots that wreaked havoc on the sidewalk. Now, the department is experimenting with new trees for New York, like cypress evergreens, and buying species with roots that play nice with city sidewalks.
That last fact was parks committee chair Mark Levine’s favorite fact of the hearing. What was your favorite fact?