A Free Tree on Earth Day

A family in attendance picked out a tree to plant at home. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

By Iryna Shkurhanishkurhan@queensledger.com 

For Earth Day on April 22, Queens locals lined up at the Queens Botanical Garden parking lot in Flushing to secure a small tree to take home. 

The Tree Giveaway event was sponsored by the New York Restoration Program, a nonprofit  organization working to promote urban agriculture, restore parks and renovate gardens. It was one of dozens of tree giveaways spread across all five boroughs from April to May annually. 

All eight tree species up for grabs are native to the New York region and include Sycamore, Willow Oak, and Honey Locust trees. The Eastern Redbud variety was first to go, with attendees expressing a strong desire for its delicate pink blossoms in the spring season. Plum trees and Black Cherry trees, which produce harvestable fruits, were also in high demand. 

A volunteer at the event warned takers that planting one of the trees outside of the region could be disruptive to the ecosystem and become invasive. With each tree volunteers handed off, they made sure to ask when and where it would be planted to ensure the tree would thrive in its new home.

“It’s nice because it brings people together,” said Kimberly Guaman while holding a Flowering Dogwood tree in a two-gallon container. “Especially on Earth Day.”

Kimberly Guaman plans to plant the tree she reserved at the Sunnyside church she volunteers at. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

Guaman says that she will plant the tree she picked up outside of the Queen of Angels Church on Skillman Ave. in Sunnyside where she volunteers in her spare time.

Many of the attendees reserved one of 200 available trees online weeks before the event. Others who were unable to secure the reservation expressed disappointment at how fast the reservations filled up. But they still showed up in hopes of securing an unclaimed tree.

According to volunteers, the remaining trees were first-come first-serve until all were distributed. The second hour of the event was reserved for those who missed the chance to register in advance. 

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who represents eastern Queens, co-sponsored the event with the Queens Botanical Garden. She could not attend the giveaway due to observance of Shabbat, according a representative from her office. 

Two professors from Queensborough Community College, Joan Petersen and Mercedes Franco, signed up to volunteer at the event in an effort to get more involved in environmental initiatives in the community. Peterson also recruited students in her biology research program to volunteer at the event. 

Eight tree species were up for grabs. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

Maha Almaflehi, a first year Queensborough student said this is her first time ever volunteering. She plans to plant the Dogwood tree she reserved in the backyard of her Flushing home. 

“If we don’t do something to help the environment, nothing else is going to matter,” said Petersen, who teaches Environmental Science and Ecology. “If we don’t have a good healthy environment to live in, nobody’s gonna survive.”

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