Around 22% of New York City is covered by trees right now. The City Council wants to increase that to 30%.
At a Council Committee on Parks and Recreation hearing Tuesday, members discussed how to protect the more than 50% of city trees managed by the Parks Department, in addition to planting new ones.
“The critical need of properly growing and maintaining the city’s tree stock is obvious,” committee Chair Shekar Krishnan said. “In short, our trees are connected intimately to our climate, to our public health and, yes, to our mental health, too.”
Council Member Erik Bottcher is sponsoring a bill that would require the department to create an Urban Forestry Master Plan “that identifies strategies and sets goals to protect, care for and expand the city’s urban forest canopy” by July 31, 2024.
Some forms of tree care discussed were proactive pruning and installing more tree guards.
Pruning is the process of removing hanging branches that could cause harm if they fell. Before a tree can be pruned, an inspection from a city Parks forestry professional must be completed to assign the tree a risk ranking. The most extreme-risk trees are handled by the department’s in-house foresters.
Lower risk and proactive prunings are done by contracted vendors. By proactively pruning trees, they’re kept healthier for longer.
Tree guards are steel gates that are installed around the trunk or bed of a tree to keep people from stepping on them and dogs from using their roots as a toilet. External wounds on trunks and branches can lead to internal infections that spell death for the plant.
Keeping the current population healthy and cared for will contribute to the Council’s 30% canopy goal.
Planting new trees was, of course, also a large part of the discussion, with the department on track to plant 2,000 trees more than the 13,000 that were planted last year.