New Yorkers care for their neighborhood trees outside on the Upper West Side. Photo © JF
MILESTONE PLANTINGS: NYC Parks planted more street trees in FY22 than previous five fiscal years; 13,020 trees planted in FY22, 87% increase from plantings in FY21
PLANTING EQUITABLY: ~3,000 trees planted in communities that need trees most, HVI neighborhoods, and more on the way with $112 million in new funding from the Adams Administration
NATIONAL CANOPY COOLING STUDY: NYC Parks to participate in the Natural Areas Conservancy’s national study examining the potential of trees in cooling cities
NYC Parks today is marking climate week with a suite of tree canopy announcements – including celebrating a milestone planting season; furthering its commitment to increasing planting equitably and targeting plantings in areas that need trees most with a $112 million allocation from the the Adams administration; and partnering with the Natural Areas Conservancy to continue to study the cooling effects of tree canopy in urban natural areas.
Heat impacts are one of the most pressing public health issues facing our city. Increasing tree canopy is a recognized strategy for keeping urban areas cool, as trees offer shade and can lower ambient temperatures in neighborhoods by up to 6 degrees. The summer of 2022 is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record, with this past August having eleven 90 degree days, more than in the past ten years.
“Expanding our tree canopy makes our city cooler, our air cleaner, and our streets more beautiful,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “I’m proud that we have ramped up tree plantings significantly this past year, and with $112 million in additional funds, we are prioritizing even more plantings in the neighborhoods that need it most. As climate change advances, trees and our city’s green spaces are becoming even more critical infrastructure that will pay dividends for generations to come.”
“The City prioritizes health and safety and this increased tree canopy will help cool the City in a warming environment,” says Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi. “Trees are vital infrastructure that help provide shade, cool streets, and clean our air, which are critical aspects as we mitigate the impact of excessive heat.”
“Our trees are the lungs of our city, and today we are celebrating our expanding tree canopy and our role in mitigating excessive heat due to climate change through our urban forest,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “We know that trees provide so many benefits to communities – they clean our air, cool our city, collect stormwater, and so much more – and they are truly essential infrastructure. On the heels of a milestone planting year, we are doubling-down on our commitment to expanding our city’s tree canopy equitably, and dedicated to further increasing our tree canopy coverage during this administration.”
Parks is celebrating a massive climate milestone reached in tree canopy expansion; more trees have been planted on city streets this past fiscal year than in the past five fiscal years, with over 13,000 planted in FY22.
Planting Equitably / Cool Neighborhoods NYC
In an effort to curb the impacts of the heat due to climate change, Parks has prioritized planting trees in neighborhoods most at risk. Among the 13,000 new trees planted in FY22, approximately 3,000 of the new plantings are in heat vulnerable neighborhoods, guided by the NYC Heat Vulnerability Index (HVI neighborhoods), a tool grounded in climate and racial justice that identifies communities carrying the greatest burden of heat-related health impacts (HVI 1-5 with 5=highest risk) . Some of these neighborhoods include:
- Bronx: Williamsbridge, Woodlawn, Eastchester, Edenwald, Soundview, Morris Park
- Brooklyn: Seagate, Coney Island, East Flatbush, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Flatlands, Sunset Park
- Manhattan: West Harlem, East Harlem, Lower East Side
- Queens: Hunters Point, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Elmhurst, Laurelton
In 2017 the City released its first heat resiliency plan, Cool Neighborhoods NYC. The plan outlines a set of strategies and programs with almost $100M worth of investments that increased the City’s tree canopy, launched the “Be A Buddy” program, a community-led social resiliency program that has served thousands of residents most vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather through wellness checks and connecting New Yorkers to critical City services, and expanded cool roofs and other building scale investments to the City’s most heat vulnerable communities.
Since 2017, 11,634 street and park trees were planted in HVI-5 neighborhoods, with an estimated 14,530 more to be planted through Spring 2024. Thanks to an additional $112 million allocated by the Adams administration for the program, an estimated 36,000 additional trees will be planted per year in HVI-4 neighborhoods through 2026.
Canopy Cooling Study Partnership
NYC Parks is participating in the Natural Areas Conservancy’s (NAC) groundbreaking national study to measure the cooling power of natural areas in cities across the country. A dozen cities are participating in the study — including New York City — to monitor differences in temperature across natural and built landscapes using satellite data and deploying air temperature sensors in forests. NYC Parks will assist with setting up and monitoring temperature sensors in four parks logging data through this fall. This will complement existing studies NAC completed showing that forests are 6 degrees cooler than paved surfaces.
“I am thrilled to kick off Climate Week by celebrating this important environmental justice milestone and the tangible results of our Cool Neighborhoods strategy,” said NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Executive Director Kizzy Charles-Guzman. “We continue to focus on planting trees in the communities that most need them, helping us achieve multiple climate justice goals while creating beautiful green corridors to keep New Yorkers healthy and ready to withstand extreme heat, our city’s deadliest climate hazard.”
“Cooling our neighborhoods with trees is a vital step in protecting the health of New Yorkers as our climate changes and our City gets hotter,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “We know that greenery can cool a block by as much as 2 degrees, and even modest cooling can save lives. They also contribute to removing carbon from our atmosphere, which is driving our warming city and planet. We commend Mayor Adams and the Parks Department for prioritizing resiliency for communities facing the most heat-related illness and death.”
“We applaud the commitment by NYC Parks to continue to invest in expanding the City’s tree canopy, particularly in at-risk neighborhoods,” said NYC Chief Climate Officer and DEP Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. “Trees clean the air we all share, cool summertime temperatures and help to absorb stormwater – all priorities in our efforts to fight climate change and make our city more resilient.”
“We’re proud to have NYC Parks as one of our partners in our national study examining how forested natural areas mitigate urban heat in 12 cities across the country,” said Dr. Clara Pregitzer, the Natural Areas Conservancy’s Deputy Director of Conservation Science. “80% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas — and as temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, this research has never been more important. NYC Parks oversees 7,300 acres of natural area forests, and our collaboration in this study will allow us to better quantify the magnitude of benefits that we know New York City’s urban forests are providing to New Yorkers.”
New York City is home to more than 7 million trees, including more than 200 species. Trees beautify city streets, soften the hard edges of concrete and brick, and are a source of pride for New Yorkers. Residents interested in adding new trees to their neighborhood can request free trees through 311, request that their council member allocate funding to support Parks’ planting program, and sign up for stewardship events via the Parks Department website.
New Yorkers can care for their neighborhood trees outside of a formal stewardship event, including watering, mulching, weeding, and planting flowers in tree beds. Young trees, especially, are extra thirsty! Record your tree care activities on the NYC Tree Map at nyc.gov/parks/treemap, and for more information, visit https://www.nycgovparks.org/trees/tree-care.