Rodriguez/NYRP Op-Ed: Let's Keep Making NYC Greener

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An opinion piece written by City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez and New York Restoration Project Director Amy Freitag was posted by The Manhattan Times today highlighting the need for the city, including its future Mayor, to build on the Million Trees NYC project by working to make NYC greener in coming years: 
 

If you want to know what real change looks like, just walk the streets of Northern Manhattan, where hundreds of new trees line the sidewalks as living symbols of the renewed vibrancy that's taking hold in our proud, historic neighborhoods.

Over the past several years, our community and others around the city have been transformed by MillionTreesNYC, a joint project by Mayor Bloomberg, the Department of Parks & Recreation, and NYRP to plant one million trees in New York City.

Through these efforts, parks have been reforested, sidewalks have been brightened and buildings have been cooled by shade--but trees do a great deal more than make our communities look and feel nicer.

Since 2007, over 750,000 trees have been planted across the five boroughs, literally changing the landscape of the city and preparing us for a greener future. As greenhouse gases accumulate in our atmosphere and the destruction from devastating storms hits home, initiatives such as MillionTreesNYC are helping to ensure our city is leading the country and the world toward environmental sustainability.

But going forward, there is still much to accomplish. In 2010, NYC emitted 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, and while our per capita emissions are well below the national average, this number can and should be greatly improved upon. We must be sure our next mayor is committed to building on one of Mayor Bloomberg's greatest legacies: a commitment to environmental advocacy and green policy.

This means meeting or surpassing the goal of lowering New York City's carbon emissions by 30% of 2007 levels by the year 2030; completing--and hopefully expanding -MillionTreesNYC; and developing strategies to promote emission reduction in our buildings--currently contributing 75% of NYC's total emissions.

Planting and caring for new trees, as well as replacing those that were lost during Sandy and Irene, will be critical if we mean to achieve these goals.

On a community level, we can encourage residents, local businesses and community organizations to take ownership of their trees so that they are viewed more as a resource than merely d├ęcor. With this goal in mind, a key aspect of MillionTreesNYC is educating people about the benefits of trees and showing them how to care for these precious resources themselves, encouraging a sense of ownership and accomplishment that benefits all concerned.

Trees are the lungs of our metropolis and, if protected, they will ensure our future generations breathe cleaner, fresher air. This will help combat asthma and other respiratory complications that are especially prevalent in lower income areas like Northern Manhattan.

We applaud the many partners that have already taken the initiative to plant and care for trees as their efforts have been instrumental in working toward the goal of a million new trees. It is time for us all to step up and seize the future of our city, and our next mayor's leadership on this issue will be a critical test.

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