Brooklyn Heights tree stewards ‘Spring into Service’
"Trees take care of us, so we should take care of them."
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — If you notice the street trees in the north end of Brooklyn Heights looking especially lush and healthy this spring, you have the local tree stewards to thank.
Dozens of volunteers gathered early on Sunday, May 7, to take care of the trees in a Spring into Service event coordinated by the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), Councilmember Lincoln Restler’s Office and the nonprofit Big Reuse.
Gowanus-based Big Reuse Event Coordinator Gil Lopez provided compost and wheelbarrows, and explained the mission: to clean trash out of tree beds, weed, cultivate the soil with the compost and sweep around tree pits.
“We’re going to be taking care of our street trees because they take such good care of us,” Lopez told the volunteers. “We’re going to be removing all the trash and then the weeds; then we’re going to aerate the soil with hand cultivators and trowels so the air can get through and the water can get down to the roots. Then we’re going to add an inch or two of compost — you don’t want it touching the trunk. And that’s it!”
Parks Department’s horticulturist Anil Chandrakumar, who works with volunteer gardeners on BHA’s Promenade Garden Conservancy Project, handed out gloves and tools, while Restler and Channa Camins, his director of organizing, got to work shoveling compost into the wheelbarrows.
“This event is all about encouraging community members to get involved in improving the health of our street trees,” Restler said. “I’ve talked to climate experts all across the country about the most consequential ways that we can mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, and the solution I hear most frequently is the simplest one: plant more trees and improve the health of our trees. From preventing the worst effects of the urban heat island effect and improving our air quality, to storm water mitigation and runoff, having more healthy trees in our community makes an enormous difference.”
Restler said his office’s goal was to plant 3,400 trees in District 33 over the next four years.
The volunteers were divided into six groups, and — armed with maps, tools and compost — spread out across Henry, Hicks and Willow streets.
“I just love to feel connected to people in the neighborhood, and I feel like trees take care of us, so we should take care of them,” Heights resident Olivia Biller told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Biller said she works in New Jersey, and appreciated the volunteer opportunity because it brought her closer to her neighbors.
Restler said his office is hosting tree care events across the district, and has created a website where people can take responsibility for a tree on their block and track the care they give the tree.
“We’re trying to get every single tree in our community spoken for. It’s a great way to improve the climate resiliency of our community,” he said.
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