Greening Greenpoint nears goal of 500 new trees on North Brooklyn streets

GCEF Funded Program Trains Residents in the Craft of Tree Stewardship

July 20, 2017 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Volunteer stewards from left: Olivia Skowronski, Bozena Skowronski, Arthur Skowronski and Christina Witt. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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Shovels, a truck bed filled with mulch and half-a-dozen large pizzas came together on Franklin Street to bring Greening Greenpoint closer to its goal of planting 500 new trees in North Brooklyn.

“Don’t force the mulch up too closely around the base,” Sophie Plitt, Greenpoint coordinator for the New York Tree Trust, explained to the small crew of volunteer tree stewards as they put the finishing touches on an American sweetgum tree planted on Franklin Street near the corner of Milton Street. “Spread it more evenly around, in a kind of semicircle.”

Sunday was Greenpoint Street Tree Volunteer Day. Rather than planting new trees, the day’s work provided apprentice tree stewards the opportunity to learn the steps required to care for and feed some of the 420 trees planted under a program initiated two years prior with funds provided by the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund and a matching grant from the New York City Department of Parks. Greening Greenpoint’s goal is to add a total of 500 new trees of various species to the streets of North Brooklyn.

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Administered by the New York Tree Trust in partnership with NYC Department of Parks, the three-year program aims to eliminate 13,000 pounds of air pollution and treat some 787,500 gallons of storm water runoff annually.

“We space our plantings at 50 square feet,” explained Kathleen Martin, the program’s outreach coordinator. “Twenty-five square feet is the standard minimum, but that’s what leads to roots eventually breaking through sidewalks and the roads. Bigger tree beds absorb more water and are less likely to interfere with the growth of other trees.”

With the last tree mulched and swept, it was time to retire to the American Playground and crack open the pizza boxes from Fornino.

“Our daughter got us involved after she interned at Tree Trust,” Arthur Skowronski said, gathering tools together. He, along with his wife Bozenza Skowronski and their daughter Olivia, are long-term Greenpoint residents. “People ask what we’re doing when they see us working, and when we tell them, the response is overwhelmingly positive.”

With 420 out of 500 already in the ground, Greening Greenpoint is well underway to meeting its goal, with another planting scheduled for autumn 2017. As a collaboration between the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn, the Partnership for Parks, Trees New York, and the City Parks Foundation, the program has reached many parts of North Brooklyn. In addition to planting and stewarding extant trees, the program has made free trees available to residents willing to undertake responsibility for planting and maintaining them. It’s provided courses in pruning trees, staged “mulchfests” and held regular community tree summits.

Volunteer steward Sarah Balistreri finished her slice of pizza, then pointed to a tree on the far side of Franklin Street: “I was here when that one was planted. I helped. That’s my tree!”


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