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A Tree Grows In Brooklyn – The Question Is When

If you want one in front of your building any time soon – or even not so soon – you’d better plant it yourself.  March 1st is the official beginning of the planting season.  That’s when apartment owners come out of hibernation demanding replacement trees if the ones that were there expired over the winter or brand new trees if there were never old ones.

So I thought it was perfect timing when a friend emailed me about The Million Trees Program designed to make the City an urban forest — in part by planting free street trees all over town. I figured it would be a snap – we only needed one. But when I called 311 requesting a street tree, the woman on the other end of the line just laughed.

 “You want a tree?” I thought it was a simple enough request. “This year? Forget it! First you gotta fill out an application for a permit, then someone will come and inspect to see if it’s a suitable spot for a tree cause there could be bad drainage or utility wires – I mean this is New York.”

“Except we had a tree.  It died.”

 “Doesn’t matter.  Someone’s gotta come and inspect and tell you what kind of tree you can plant cause you can’t plant just any tree.”

“It was a Callery Pear.”

 “Well just because that’s what you planted then doesn’t mean you can plant it now. Anyway, once you get a permit, you have to wait.”

“How long?”

“Who knows?” she made clear the stupidity of my question.  More than a year.  It didn’t used to take that long, but since the Million Trees thing everyone wants a tree –    

“So no one’s getting one.”

But the City knows how to turn the streets green in a flash when it wants to – I gotta give them that. A centerpiece of the Million Trees plan is the requirement that any new building has to plant trees before it can get a Certificate of Occupancy.  Do you think the Big Guys are going to stand in line for a year waiting for a tree?  No, they get a permit and pay for and plant those suckers as fast as they can so they can start selling apartments.

 And that’s probably what you should do because even if you wait and finally get a tree, it will be a baby tree, and as I explained (see, The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring), that wouldn’t go over big with apartment owners who want an adult specimen as tall as a Sequoia — like Zeus emerging full grown from the head of Athena. In fact, if you’re on the board settling for a sapling could cost you your seat, which is why, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a mad rush to replace dead trees around this time of year.  Election season isn’t that far off so you’d better get cracking.

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