Rockaway is getting a forest on Saturday. Over the course of a few hours, more than a thousand volunteers will be planting 20,000 trees and 5,000 shrubs at Edgemere Park, officially known as the Rockaway Community Park.
The NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, the NFL and Verizon are teaming up with the city’s MillionTreesNYC program to undertake the massive task of planting the trees in a tucked away, 253-acre park between Jamaica Bay and the Edgemere Houses, between Beach 48th Street and Beach 58th Street.
The Parks Department has been preparing the park for a mass-planting for two years by removing invasive plants. “They removed species that don’t contribute a whole lot to the area. They were removed, allowing for space for new trees to be planted,” MillionTreesNYC Director Morgan Monaco said. “The site was chosen by us with forestry experts who determined that it would be suitable to withstand a multilayer forest.”
The park took a hard hit when Hurricane Sandy struck last October. Now, just before the one-year anniversary of the storm, the park is ready for a major makeover. “It’s a big statement for us to plant this many trees, because last year we lost 20,000 trees in New York City. The Rockaways are a hard hit community,” Parks Department Commissioner Veronica White said.
The event starts with a check-in at 9 a.m. in which volunteers will be given tools, materials and a color assignment. A welcome announcement will be made by representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee and the NFL, Parks Department Commissioner Veronica White, NYC Service Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Buford and other officials. Volunteers will then have from 10:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to fill the park with 20,000 trees and 5,000 shrubs.
The fun won’t end with the planting event. Urban Park Rangers, the American Littoral Society and the Sebago Canoe Club will be holding activities such as a kids’ activity tent, bird walks, fishing, canoeing and more before the day ends at 2 p.m. The event will take place rain or shine. “Trees are good with rain and so are our volunteers,” White said.
About 1,200 volunteers are expected to participate in the tree planting. Advanced registration was held online and is now closed. However Monaco says volunteers can still show up at the site on the day of the planting or can email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a spot.
This isn’t the only tree planting event sponsored by the MillionTrees program and NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee and the NFL. From October 8th through the 16th, smaller events took place in the other boroughs at locations including Marine Park in Brooklyn, Kissena Corridor Park in Queens, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Ocean Breeze Park in Staten Island and Highbridge Park in Manhattan. However the mass planting in Rockaway is the largest event and it’s the first time it has been done.
White says the tree planting is a “wonderful opportunity to bring together the many things the City is doing in Rockaway. We’ve come so far since Sandy and this event shows confidence. We’re investing in natural areas, be it trees or what we’re doing on the beaches. It’s a really good investment,” White said.
The 20,000 trees that are being planted will go towards the Parks Department’s goal of planting one million trees by 2017. So far, more than 776,000 have been planted throughout the five boroughs. Reforestation, which is what is being done on Saturday, is just one component of the program. According to the MillionTreesNYC program, “new forests help expand canopy cover in New York City, increasing a myriad of environmental benefits including storm water capture, lower summer air temperatures, cleaner air, preserve wildlife habitat, and increase biodiversity.”
While 20,000 may seem like a lot to fit into one spot, Monaco says the trees are two feet tall and come in two-gallon containers, so they aren’t difficult to transport and will be able to grow over time. The trees that were chosen are the “most hardy and best trees for this coastal environment,” Monaco said.
Through the MillionTrees program, hundreds of Rockaway residents have received trees to place on their own properties through free tree giveaways. Two giveaways took place in the area in September and earlier this month.
Several more upcoming tree giveaway events are planned for the peninsula. Transitional Services for NY Project Hope will host an event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on October 27th at 26-01 Mott Ave in Far Rockaway. OHEL Children’s Home and Family Service and Young Israel of Wavecrest and Bayswater will host a giveaway from 12 to 2 p.m. on November 3rd at West End Temple, 147-02 Newport Avenue in Neponsit. Habitat for Humanity and Cornell Cooperative Extension will host an event from 10 to 12 p.m. on November 9th at 60 West Market Street in Breezy Point. Those interested can pre-register for a tree at www.treegiveaways.com.
The NFL and NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee are contributing to several events across New York and New Jersey as they prepare to play at MetLife Stadium in February when Super Bowl XLVIII comes to the area. “Every Super Bowl, the NFL has an environmental initiative. For Super Bowl XLVIII, the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee and the NFL partnered with Mayor Bloomberg’s Million- TreesNYC campaign to create the largest single urban forestry project in Super Bowl history,” Alfred F. Kelly, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee said.
“For us, the Super Bowl represents much more than just one day. The reach of the game extends well beyond the playing field, and serves as a celebration and a showcase for the host communities. So much of our region is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and we remain dedicated to assist in any way that we can,” Kelly added.
Teaming up with the MillionTrees program isn’t the only way the NFL Foundation and NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee is helping out Rockaway. Mayor Bloomberg announced on October 10th that the groups donated more than $1 million which will go toward other recreation areas. Part of the money will go toward a new gym at the Hammels Community Center and a new playground created by the Sandy Ground Project, which honors children who were killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Rockaway’s playground will honor 6-year-old Noah Pozner whose grandfather lives in the area.