When New Yorkers are right, they're right. According to a major new report by the Nature Conservancy called "Planting Healthy Air," planting trees is far and away the most cost-effective way to address deteriorating air quality and rising urban temperatures. "Some of the world’s largest cities could dramatically improve public health by those standards by investing just $4 per capita in their canopies," writes CityLab about the report. And, believe it or not, when it comes to trees, New Yorkers are already in a pretty strong position.
In fact, ours is one of the five greenest cities in North America, according to the Nature Conservancy. That's thanks in part to Mayor Bloomberg's MillionTreesNYC initiative, which saw, as the name suggest, a million new trees planted in the city.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation identified neighborhoods in needs of trees and found that "unemployment, low incomes, the rate of hospitalization for asthma for children for 14 and younger—all correlated with the absence of trees," according to the report.
Six areas were singled out for mass plantings: Hunts Point and Morrisania in the Bronx, East New York in Brooklyn, East Harlem in Manhattan, Stapleton in Staten Island, and The Rockaways in Queens.
The initiative, which continued under Mayor Bill De Blasio and finished two years ahead of its 10-year goal, saw new trees in existing parks as well as 220,000 new street trees in all five boroughs, according to the report. "Over the course of the project, the city expanded its number of trees by 20 percent." We now have five million trees, which cover almost a quarter of the city.
Temperatures expected to rise
New York's renewed commitment to planting trees is coming not a moment too soon. In fact, the report refers to numbers from the New York City Panel on Climate Change, which expecrts temperatures in New York to jump 4.1 to 5.7 degrees by the 2050s, and up to 8.8 degrees by the 2080s (the current average is 54 degrees, in case you're wondering).
"According to the panel’s report, by mid-century, the city could get five to seven heat waves a year, compared to two currently, and the number of days over 90 degrees could double," the panel found.
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