All five of New York City’s borough presidents are calling on Mayor Eric Adams to improve the city’s green spaces by planting one million new trees by 2030. During a joint press conference on Monday, Borough Presidents Mark Levine, Antonio Reynoso, Vanessa Gibson, Donovan Richards, and Vito Fossella introduced the “Million More Trees” initiative, a program first started by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and completed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015. Also included as part of the initiative is the goal of increasing the city’s tree canopy to 30 percent by 2035.
According to the New York Times, approximately 22 percent of NYC is covered by tree canopy, a figure that has increased by two percent in recent years due to the growth of the trees planted in Bloomberg’s initiative. However, the city’s distribution of greenery across the city remains unequal; low-income and communities of color have significantly less accessible park space.
Estimated to cost $500 million, the “Million More Trees” program would improve the lives of New Yorkers in many ways, especially when it comes to climate change-causing environmental risks, by decreasing the urban heat island effect, managing stormwater, and reducing air pollution. Plantings will be prioritized in communities with a lack of accessible park spaces. Green spaces also provide relief for those experiencing stress and were one of the only places of solitude for New Yorkers during the height of the pandemic.
“I was proud to stand with my fellow BPs this morning to introduce our Million More Trees initiative, which would achieve 30% tree canopy coverage by 2035,” Gibson said in a tweet on Monday. “This would be a major step towards health equity, sustainability & better quality of life, & an important investment in NYC.”
“Our ‘Million More Trees’ initiative will be the second of its kind in our city but with some important distinctions: All five borough presidents are championing it with a keen eye on equity,” Antonio Reynoso, Brooklyn Borough President, said. “We look forward to working together as one city with our environmental and parks advocates to plant, replant, and maintain our million more trees.”
City officials are also calling on Adams to honor a pledge he made during his mayoral campaign. Last September, Adams pledged to commit one percent of the city’s budget towards the Parks Department in an effort to improve park equity among the city’s residents.
Allocating just one percent of the city’s budget towards parks would bring funding levels back to how they were during the 1960s. According to the Daily News, “park spending made up 0.52% of city spending in 2000, down from 0.86% in the 1980s and 1.5% in the 1960s.”
The borough presidents’ said they would also work with private, corporate, and foundation fundraising efforts to secure additional funding for the initiative.
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