Wednesday, June 22, 2011

if you're a New Yorker, know this org

plant, preserve, protect

I recently completed a course to become a certified street tree pruner in New York City. And I admit it had been something I had been meaning to do for a while. In the five boroughs, in order for you to prune street trees legitimately you have to have approval from the Parks Department. So even though I know my trees and proper pruning techniques I had to jump through the proper hoops before I could go out and begin to beautify my local neighborhood. But I finally did, and can't tell you how happy I am to have done so. First of all I got to revisit and support a fabulous organization I have known for a while now. Second, I had to take a course, and as you know in horticulture and arboriculture you are never done learning. (PS, if you ever meet a gardener who says they know everything, be concerned, and definitely don't hire them to take liberties with your landscape!) Third, my conscience was starting to really bug me so it was time to shut it up and do the right thing.

Some years ago when I was Director of Horticulture for HSNY I was asked to be on the advisory council for the new Million Trees NYC initiative introduced by Mayor Bloomberg and Bette Midler's organization, New York Restoration Project. Via those myriad of meetings and discussions I was lucky enough to meet Susan Gooberman. Quickly I would learn that Susan was the Executive Director of a small organization called Trees NY, formerly the New York City Street Tree Consortium. An amazing cast of only 5 people, Trees NY has for years teamed up with the Parks Department to encourage, educate, and recruit New Yorkers to be stewards of the very trees that shade bustling city streets, help to combat the "heat island effect", remove pollutants from the air in exchange for vital oxygen, and vastly improve the quality of life in New York City. As I was those years ago, I was recently reminded of the huge and essential impact this tiny organization has on the city and its people.

I registered for the citizen tree pruner class a few months ago and signed up to attend the classes at the Arsenal in Central Park on 64th Street. (Trees NY now offers classes downtown, and in Brooklyn and Queens.) Based on my previous training I assumed most of the information would be more of a refresher, but as I said before you are never done learning so with an open mind I submitted my registration and gladly paid my $100 to Trees NY. The class would be held over over the next month and a half, with four 2-hour class sessions and one 4-hour jaunt out in the field to practice our pruning first-hand. Sam Bishop II is Director of Education for Trees NY and he did a fabulous job teaching our class. Like you might expect there were people from all backgrounds and all levels of knowledge and skill. In class we were all equals and quickly the information was fed to us in a smart and enjoyable fashion, and overall I think the class loved our time together talking trees. The time flew by and yes, even I learned a few things I didn't know before. It was so great. In the end I would pass the final exam to become a certified citizen tree pruner and aside from being elated that I finally supported Trees NY I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with such pride.

In short I can't speak highly enough about Trees NY. At our cute little graduation ceremony I would meet people from all boroughs excited to take on our new roles as NYC street tree stewards. I got to see Susan for the first time in years and we would have a ball reconnecting and talking about how the city is greener than ever. I ran into old friends from the Parks Department and learned that we are up to about 500,000 trees, so halfway in terms of the initiative. Before running off I would make Sam pose with me for a quick pic. If you are in the city and value the presence of green, know and support Trees NY. For only a handful of people they improve the quality of life for millions and millions of people, most of whom don't even realize it. If you want to go the step further, become a citizen tree pruner and help ensure continued success for these trees. In order for the Million Trees initiative to succeed and for us to create a healthier environment in this city we as citizens have to take ownership and get off our asses to help the cause. I assure you, the education, excitement, and sense of pride will make you feel real good inside, not to mention make this a better home for all.

Me with Sam A. Bishop II, Director of Education for Trees NY

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