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From left to right, New York Restoration Project’s Executive Director, Deborah Marton, along with the organization’s founder, Bette Midler, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Councilman Mike Levine and Chair of the Committee on Parks, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, and US Congressman Jose E. Serrano.

Today was a special day in The Bronx at Joyce Kilmer Park on 161st Street and The Grand Concourse. Local school children gleefully joined residents, elected officials, NYC Parks employees to celebrate the millionth tree which was planted last month at the park as part of the MillionTreesNYC program initiated by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

When the millionth tree was planted last month at the park, it was 2 years ahead of schedule as 2017 was the target date for completion of the project to green up New York City—especially the areas which lacked greenery and green streets such as The South Bronx where the ceremony took place.

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The Bronx actually received the 2nd most number of trees with a total of 276,600 adding to the greenest of the five boroughs of New York City. Queens received the highest number of trees but only by a little over 8,000 more trees at 284,755.

Last month’s planting was supposed to have happened with today’s fanfare but the celebration was postponed after NYPD Officer Holder was tragically killed in East Harlem the day before of that planting.

The local school children from PS 35 Franz Siegel School were so excited that when Mayor de Blasio said good morning to the crowd, the children all shouted in unison, “Good morning Mayor de Blasio!”

It was especially nice to see the children get to help plant the 1,017,634th tree at Joyce Kilmer, an American Linden, after Bette Midler, and local elected and city officials did their ceremonial shoveling in for the planting.

School kids from PS 35 Franz Siegel School helped plant the 1,017,634th tree, an American linden, during today's celebration.
School kids from PS 35 Franz Siegel School helped plant the 1,017,634th tree, an American linden, during today’s celebration.

In a press release issued by the mayor’s office, Bette Midler says, There are now one million more reasons why New York is the greatest city in the world. Nine years ago, planting one million trees was a far-fetched idea. Today, we’ve done the impossible. One million trees means that every single New Yorker has a little more green space in their life. I’ve always loved this city, but I’ve never been more proud to call it home. Tonight, we’re lighting the Empire State Building, New York’s most beloved skyscraper, in forest green to symbolize the city becoming more sustainable and a healthier place for all of its citizens.”

The release goes on to say:

“MillionTreesNYC has not only transformed our City’s green spaces – it has also helped reduce our carbon foot print and made New York more equitable for all New Yorkers, in all five boroughs,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This critically important initiative builds on the Council’s on-going efforts to make our City more sustainable and environmentally friendly and I thank Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor de Blasio and all of our partners for making this program a tremendous success.”

“I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for helping us build a more resilient, greener city for all New Yorkers. This one millionth tree highlights what New Yorkers can do when we work together for the greater good of our city, and is a strong example of the impact that volunteers are having in and around our communities every day,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Today is a major achievement in this city’s vision for a healthier, more sustainable city, and one that we are carrying forward through OneNYC.”

“We planted tree number one just down the road eight years ago and we’ve added one million more thanks to the dedication of so many: Mayor de Blasio and his team who carried the work through, our founding partner Bette Midler, the New York Restoration Project, dozens of members of our Administration and more than 50,000 volunteers,” said 108th Mayor of New York City Mike Bloomberg. “Each new tree planted makes our city a little more beautiful, the air we breathe a little cleaner, and our carbon footprint a little smaller. MillionTreesNYC was an important part of our comprehensive sustainability plan, which has led to New Yorkers breathing the cleanest air our city has had in 50 years. We worked extremely hard to expand and strengthen our parks, particularly in low-income communities. Seeing tree number one million take root is something we can all be proud of.”

“We are enormously grateful to the thousands of volunteers, sponsors, and partners who donated time, energy, and funding to make MillionTreesNYC so successful,” saidParks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, FAICP. “MillionTreesNYC was an unprecedented initiative in New York City and has become a renowned greening model used internationally. It has led to a host of valuable research regarding urban greening efforts and has transformed acres of parkland and streets into new, ecologically healthy, multi-story forests that provide benefits to all New Yorkers. Through the Mayor’s Community Parks Initiative (CPI), we will continue to make strides in creating an environmentally equitable city, engage New Yorkers in their parks in new and exciting ways, and reimagine our open spaces together.”

Bette Midler has been a personal inspiration for me for I remember when 20 years ago she adopted 2 miles along The Bronx River Parkway in our borough in an effort to help clean up our borough. It was something she didn’t have to do but she saw the disinvestment in places like The Bronx and decided to do something about it.

Eventually, through her organization which she found, The New York Restoration Project, it went steps further and protected community gardens from development by purchasing them—a move not always popular with everyone—so as to prevent development on such sacred spaces.

These green spaces that the organization now owns, along with the green thumb gardens are spaces that could have been developed but instead turned over to nature and community to be stewards of the land. They have become places where urban farmers have grown, cultural spaces where traditions are passed.

To all who made this possible, from local residents and grassroots organizations, to the elected officials who stood behind this, Bette Midler for her vision along with her organization, The New York Restoration Project, and most of all the volunteers and stewards who take care of these trees and have helped plant them, a big thank you is in order.

Who would have thought that such a feat would be possible?

I live in Melrose and our neighborhood has been transformed. Before the first tree was planted in October of 2008, you could go blocks and blocks and only encounter  a handful of trees. Now you can walk by tree-lined streets that go on for blocks on end.

Thanks for sprucing up our borough and city along with our quality of life and health.

 

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