Thirty-three honey locust trees were planted upon the launch of Greening Western Queens, a project assembled by the nonprofit City Parks Foundation and the Parks Department.
Eighty-five trees will be planted total in Astoria and Sunnyside throughout the week. The project will expand to Long Island City and Woodside with 850 trees planted in the fall and spring over the next three years.
Funding for the trees comes from part of an $8 million settlement awarded after a 2006 blackout left more than 170,000 Western Queens residents without power for a week or longer.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, who attended the tree-planting event, said the new greenery would benefit the area he represents in two ways – with beautification and cleaner air.
“You see just from looking down the street there’s a lot of industrial facilities here, so the more you can both beautify the neighborhood and improve the environment” the better, he said. “Because we are literally half a block from where most of these smoke stacks are located and the trees help clean the air.”
Organizers are asking community members to help care for the trees, to ensure they live long, healthy and foliage-full lives.
Nancy Perez, who lives on 27th Street with her husband, is organizing community involvement. She was excited about the new tree in front of her house, and planted bulbs and other plants to protect the soil in its bed.
Perez said she grew up a few blocks from the 1930s townhouse she moved into last April, “and I didn’t have nearly as much dust as I have in my house now.”
She said “the trees do filter out the dust and they definitely will keep it warmer, cooler in the summer.”
Perez is also looking forward to the trees blocking her view of the Con Ed power plant, she added.
Each tree comes with instructions listed on a tag that advises residents to make sure they get 20 to 30 gallons of water a week, their soil stays soft and are kept clean from waste and litter.
Joe Kocal, senior forester for Queens with the Parks Department, said honey locusts were selected out of a pallet of 50 or 60 approved street trees because of their extensive foliage and resilience to the harsh weather the city is prone to, particularly in areas like 27th Street in Astoria that are close to the river.
The contents in the existing tree beds were replaced with nutrient-rich soil that meets the city’s strict specifications, he said.
“When there’s room to plant large-canopy trees, like there is here, we go ahead and do that so you can maximize the canopy area,” Kocal said.
“They do well with the weather, they do well with the road salt,” he added. “There’s a lot of harsh environmental elements in the city and these trees would stand them.”
Training is available for community members who want to learn how to care for their new trees. For dates and to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.