Beautifying Tree Beds on Nassau Ave: An Opportunity for Everyday Green Space

Written for Gwapp.org

On my way home I routinely find myself walking along Nassau Avenue, which has been undergoing a major construction project for the last year. Although the roadway is now nicely paved with brand new curbs and light fixtures, the tree beds along Nassau were certainly in need of some care following the construction. Throughout North Brooklyn and the whole city, it’s routine to find pieces of broken glass, chunks of concrete, dog feces, cigarette butts and other pieces of trash left behind inside street tree beds.

© 2013 Ryan Watson. Used with permission. Trash and chunks of concrete leftover from a construction project.

© 2013 Ryan Watson. Used with permission. Trash and chunks of concrete leftover from a construction project.

 
Although city agencies are responsible for planting street trees, the responsibility of maintaining, watering and beautifying the tree beds is not directly looked after by any particular agency (at least, it doesn’t rank high on their priority list). Thus, it falls upon us as citizens and neighbors to take on the challenge and privilege of greening these open spaces. With nearly 600,000 street trees in New York City, providing about $122 million in financial benefits to the city each year (an average of $209 per tree), there’s ample reason to adopt a street tree.

© 2013 Ryan Watson. Used with permission. Crocus bulbs in the soil. Half of a completed bed. Seriously compacted soil.

© 2013 Ryan Watson. Used with permission. Crocus bulbs in the soil. Half of a completed bed. Seriously compacted soil.

Armed with the knowledge of how to take care of street trees, thanks to a MillionTrees NYC workshop at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden which taught me the proper way to care for street trees and gave me the proper qualification to work inside the beds of street trees, I got to work!

With an ample supply of recycled christmas tree pine mulch in McCarren Park from this weekend’s Mulchfest, an amazing array of bulbs donated by Greenbridge (the outreach arm of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden), a little bit of compost and some unseasonably warm temperatures, I put some gloves on, got dirty and gave a little love to the trees along Nassau Avenue. I removed the trash in the beds, loosened the seriously compacted soil, applied compost, planted crocus and grape hyacinth bulbs in each bed and then placed the recycled christmas tree mulch atop each bed. When I was finished, they looked fantastic and even had the added benefit of a wonderfully fragrant pine smell.

© 2013 Ryan Watson. Used with permission. Two of the completed tree beds.

© 2013 Ryan Watson. Used with permission. Two of the completed tree beds.

 

Along the way, I received a few inquisitive looks by passersby, but was also greeted with numerous compliments and gratitude by many neighbors and local business owners (and even a cold bottle of water!) But with only one set of hands, I was only able to tackle three tree beds out of the dozens along Nassau Avenue. The potential for greening these open spaces is immense, but can only be realized with the help of the community as a whole. If you’re still skeptical of this potential, walk down the 150 block of Nassau Avenue in March to May and see if it doesn’t change your mind.

And in case you weren’t convinced of the power of street trees, every year in New York City street trees:

  • Capture 890 million gallons of stormwater (an average of 1,432 per tree);
  • Provide $122 million in financial benefit to the City;
  • Remove 272 tons – the equivalent of 40 adult elephants – of pollution, ozone and particulate matter from the air

 
To learn more about street tree care and the amazing benefits they provide, check out the TreeLC Tree Care Handbook. To adopt a tree, visit the MillionTrees stewardship program. If you’re interested in helping to beautify the area, please contact us and we’ll set up a tree care workshop for the neighborhood, so we can spread the love throughout North Brooklyn.

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