By Bobby Cuza | Spectrum News NY1
The job of borough president is often described as a ceremonial one, without much political muscle.
But the city’s five borough presidents hope that by joining forces they can effect change — in this case, creating a greener, more resilient city by planting a million new trees across the five boroughs.
Monday, the group launched the “Million More Trees” initiative with a news conference in City Hall Park. “We are here today to call for a million more trees for New York City,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.
What You Need to Know
- All five borough presidents have teamed up to push the “Million More Trees” initiative
- The effort aims to plant a million trees over the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $500 million
- A similar effort, begun by Mayor Bloomberg, was completed in 2015 during Mayor de Blasio’s first term
- The group is also pushing Mayor Adams to fulfill his campaign promise to devote 1% of the city budget to parks
If the idea of planting a million trees sounds familiar, it’s because the city has already done just that, an initiative begun by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and completed during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term, creating a rare alliance between the two.
The borough presidents are also taking an unusual step by teaming up in common cause. The group includes four Democrats — Levine, Vanessa Gibson of the Bronx, Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn and Donovan Richards of Queens — plus one Republican, Vito Fossella of Staten Island.
Advocates note that trees not only provide shade, they also absorb carbon and rainwater, and have a cooling effect in the hot summer months. And there’s a social justice component to the effort, they say, since negative environmental impacts often fall disproportionately on communities of color.
“Trees are so much more than just pretty to look at,” Levine said. “They are key weapons in our fight against climate change.”
Levine says the effort would cost roughly $500 million. Roughly half the new trees would be planted in the city’s parks and other natural areas, he said, and up to a quarter of them along streets.
“We can also look at other entities like our public schools, our community centers, our senior centers,” Gibson said. “We can work with our partners in the private sector.”
The group is also pushing Mayor Eric Adams to fulfill his campaign pledge to devote one percent of the city budget to parks. In a statement Monday, a City Hall spokesperson said: “The mayor is committed to the Percent for Parks pledge and his team is exploring innovative ways to invest in quality greenspaces for all New Yorkers.”
The unlikeliest member of the coalition is Fossella, a conservative Republican who won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump during last year’s Republican primary.
“I think it’s refreshing,” he said. “At a time when politics is so polarizing, people can’t stand each other, people fighting over everything, I think there’s a good chunk of people who just want people in public office to work together.”
Added Reynoso: “Trees don’t care about political parties. They just want to get planted.”
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