MillionTreesNYC, which has the goal of planting one million trees in New York City by 2017, is intended to make New York City a greener, more sustainable city and is part of the Mayor’s comprehensive long term strategic plan, PlaNYC. Through planting a tree at every suitable sidewalk location in the city, the City of New York is transforming blocks and communities, and providing a variety of environmental, social and aesthetic benefits. This article examines the large scale municipal planting of new street trees and the reaction by some of the pubic to this planting.
Trees offer benefits to the city overall, but the public may not understand these benefits or the street tree planting process. Between 2007 and 2009, the Department of Parks & Recreation planted 53,235 new street trees, and received 4,108 items of correspondence from the public. The majority of this correspondence consisted of public comments about the City’s new street tree planting policies and processes including placement objections, maintenance concerns, reports of resultant damage from tree planting operations, requests for new street trees and reports of tree conditions.
This study describes the operational policies that guide New York City's municipal street tree planting, and results of content and spatial analysis of the correspondence. Qualitative analysis of the correspondence revealed the public perceptions and concerns related to the MillionTreesNYC program. Spatial analysis explored the relationship between the planting locations of new street trees and the locations of the citizen correspondence.
Public reactions to this large scale municipal planting are related to the dual public and private nature of the sidewalk, issues of territoriality, responsibility, aesthetics and place attachment. Correspondence volume was associated with the scale of the new street tree block planting program, and the effectiveness of NYC’s 311 Customer Service Center. The discussion suggests that increased public education on tree benefits and notification of planting processes could change perceptions of new street tree planting, and identified the potential for targeted research studies to further investigate public reactions to new street tree planting.