A very dear friend of mine, a smart and persistent woman who spends a lot of time worrying about the environment, and some time actually DOING something about it, has been fighting a battle with the city, this city, for over two years. A battle for a tree. All she wanted for her block, a bustling edge of the rapidly dying Flower District, was a patch of green. The plant merchants for blocks around have trees, some very large, that they wheel out during the day, and corral again at night, but my friend longed for a street tree to call her own. Or at least her block’s own. Calls were made. Forms filled out. Surveyors visited to assess the suitability of the site. Foster children have been placed with less attention and investigation.
Here in the city there’s a tree hotline to call if you too long for a bit of green, a natural air conditioner, a shade and oxygen generator. But, like most things in our fair city, it may take some persistence. There are, of course, many rules and regulations governing the creation of a “tree pit,” that break in the asphalt that houses a city tree. If your site is appropriate you may sign up to have the city install a free tree, as my friend did, or if you’re desperate, and have deep pockets, you can finance the undertaking yourself. The initial permit alone is $135, and then there are the costs of excavating, the tree itself, and its installation. Once that baby is in the ground a dedicated tree parent may feel the need to install a tree pit guard: many city trees succumb when damaged by people, bicycles, cars, or trucks. And then some attention to tree care is required — thirst, disease and soil compaction are all serious threats.
But it’s all worth it. One of the most glorious things about springtime in New York City is the return of our trees, or rather, the return of their leaves, and our awareness of their presence. Shade and light, sweet-smelling flowers, they bring a lot to our cement-bound existence
Which is all to say, April 28th is Arbor Day, perhaps the lowest-profile national holiday we’ve got. But I’m on the case, inspired by a friend, and the trees I love (and the increasingly hysterical predictions of global-warming experts.) I’ve joined the Arbor Day Foundation (arborday.org), and I’m going to start tending to some of my local trees (there are great tips on treesny.com, as well as all the details on how to start the tree-procurement process). Maybe, if we cultivate a bit of our inner tree geek, we’ll all be able to breathe a little easier.