Wednesday, December 3, 2008

MillionTreesNYC To Plant 16 Trees At St. Michael's Cemetery by Linda J. Wilson - Queens Gazette

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lanting trees is one of the most beneficial and cost-effective ways to help ensure that the residents of New York City remain healthy and happy while adjusting to the city's burgeoning growth and accompanying changes. Trees help clean the air and reduce pollutants that trigger asthma and exacerbate other respiratory diseases, cool streets, sidewalks, and homes on hot summer days, increase property value, encourage neighborhood revitalization and make the city an even more beautiful and comfortable place to live, work, and visit. After seeing many parks and open spaces in dire need of cleanup and restoration and in the belief that every community in New York City deserves an oasis of natural beauty, entertainer Bette Midler founded New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 1995 as a "conservancy of forgotten places".

NYRP partners with individuals, community-based groups and public agencies to reclaim, restore and develop under-resourced parks, community gardens, and other open spaces in New York City. Now into its second decade, NYRP volunteers have removed more than 1,890 tons of garbage from project sites and reclaimed more than 400 acres of under-resourced and blighted open space. Since its inception, NYRP has rescued 114 community gardens from commercial development, transformed an illegal dumping ground along the Harlem River into the five-acre Swindler Cove Park and provides thousands of at-risk urban youth with free environmental education programs.

MillionTreesNYC, one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 127 PlaNYC2030 initiatives, is a citywide, public-private partnership, led by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and New York Restoration Project, that aims to plant and care for one million new city trees by 2017. By planting one million trees, New York City can increase its urban forest, its most valuable environmental asset, made up of street trees, park trees, and trees on public, private and commercial land, by 20 percent, while achieving the many quality of life benefits that come with planting trees.

In Queens, as in other boroughs, NYRP is working with non-profit landholders to find publicly accessible places to plant new trees; in a city as developed as New York, that is no easy feat. East Elmhurst's St. Michael's Cemetery will be among the initiative's first tree planting partners. Under the terms of an agreement between St. Michael's Cemetery and NYRP, 16 ne w trees will be planted at various locations throughout the cemetery, located on Astoria Boulevard, in the winter of 2008 as part of the MillionTrees initiative. The trees to be planted—including two Flowering Cherry (Prunus "Kwanzan"), two Kentucky Coffee trees (Gymnocladus dioicus), two Dawn Redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), a Red Oak (Quercus rubra), a Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa), two Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata) trees, one Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), two Littleleaf Linden (Tilia cordata) trees, and three other small flowering trees—will be overseen in the winter of 2008 by NYRP horticulture staff, contractor Artisan Gardens, and St. Michael's Cemetery. The purpose of this partnership is to further the banner cause of MillionTreesNYC by sustainably planting urban trees, providing for their long-term stewardship and engaging the New York City community in these efforts. The trees at St. Michael's Cemetery will be part of the 40 percent of the Million Trees initiative going to private organizations, homeowners and community organizations. The remaining 60 percent of the trees will be planted by the city in parks and other public spaces.

For more information and to learn how to get involved, visit or contact

The original seven acres that constituted St. Michael's Cemetery, located at 72-02 Astoria Blvd., East Elmhurst, were purchased in 1852 by the Rev. Thomas McClure Peters, pastor of an Episcopal congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Over the years, St. Michael's gradually acquired additional land and reached its present size of approximately 88 acres. Peters sought to provide a final dignified resting place for the poor who could not otherwise afford it, so areas within the cemetery were assigned to other free churches and institutions of New York City. These areas are still held for the institutions they were assigned. St. Michael's reflects the demographic and historical trends of New York City and as a service to its diverse constituency, St. Michael's continues to provide burial space for individuals and families from all classes, religions and ethnicities. For more information, call 718- 278-3240.