MetroFocus

FULL EPISODE

MetroFocus: April 21, 2021

Bill Ulfelder, the executive director for the New York Nature Conservancy joins us to discuss climate change along with some of the local conservation success stories in our area. Also, Emily Noble Maxwell, Cities Director for The Nature Conservancy in New York, and Annel Hernandez, Associate Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance bring us the urban forest task force.

AIRED: April 22, 2021 | 0:28:31
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> THIS IS "METROFOCUS" WITH

RAFAEL P. ROMAN, JACK FORD AND

JENNA FLANAGAN.

"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE

BY --

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN

GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE

AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND

BY --

JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND

JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP

MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH

WESTON, AND THE DR. ROBERT C.

AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE

MARK HAWES FOUNDATION.

>>> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

TODAY NEW YORKERS JOINED

MILLIONS AROUND THE WORLD TO

CELEBRATE EARTH DAY.

FOR MANY, A YEAR OF COVID

RESTRICTIONS AND LOCKDOWNS HAS

MEANT A FUNDAMENTAL SHIFT IN OUR

RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD AROUND

US, HIGHLIGHTING THE IMPORTANCE

OF OUTDOOR SPACES TO OUR

PHYSICAL AND OUR MENTAL HEALTH.

NOW, AS AMERICA BEGINS TO CRAWL

OUT OF THE PANDEMIC, THERE ARE

REAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE

LONG-TERM IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC

ON THE ENVIRONMENT.

ONE THING THAT HASN'T CHANGED IS

THE CONTINUING EXISTENTIAL

THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

WHAT LESSONS ABOUT NATURE HAVE

WE LEARNED OVER THE PAST YEAR?

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF THE

PLANET LOOK LIKE IN A POST COVID

WORLD, AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE

LOCAL CONSERVATION SUCCESS

STORIES IN OUR AREA?

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT IT ALL

AS PART OF OUR INITIATIVE

REPORTING ON THE HUMAN STORIES

OF CLIMATE CHANGE IS BILL

ULFELDER, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

FOR THE NEW YORK NATURE C

CONSE

CONSERVANCY.

>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

>> VERY QUICKLY, I DO JUST KIND

OF WANT TO REMIND PEOPLE.

LET'S SAY THAT LAST APRIL WE

WERE ALL A LITTLE PREOCCUPIED.

THAT WAS ACTUALLY THE 50th

ANNIVERSARY, WHICH DIDN'T GET MY

FANFARE.

>> IT WAS HARD LAST YEAR,

PEOPLE, COVID SUFFERING,

LOCKDOWNS.

IT WAS A HARD TIME.

THINK ABOUT THE PREVIOUS

ADMINISTRATION, AN

ADMINISTRATION THAT DIDN'T

BELIEVE IN SCIENCE AND CERTAINLY

WASN'T DOING ANYTHING ABOUT

CLIMATE CHANGE, WHICH YOU

MENTIONED IN THE OPEN AS AN

EXISTENTIAL THREAT AND HOW

DIFFERENT IT FEELS.

YES, HERE WE ARE, EMERGING FROM

THE PANDEMIC.

THAT'S HAPPENING.

IT'S SPRING.

WE HAVE A NEW ADMINISTRATION

THAT IS SO COMPLETELY COMMITTED

TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND ADDRESSING

IT.

IT FEELS LIKE A COMPLETELY

DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE.

I THINK SOMETHING ELSE YOU SAID

IN YOUR OPEN IS REALLY

IMPORTANT.

I THINK SOMETHING ABOUT THE

PANDEMIC BRINGS US CLOSER TO THE

NATURAL WORLD.

THE FACT THAT THE PANDEMIC WAS

SOMETHING WE COULDN'T SEE, KIND

OF THE WAY CLIMATE CHANGE IS

UNTIL IT HITS US, I THINK THIS

CAUSED AN AWAKENING AMONG PEOPLE

ABOUT WHAT WE NEED TO DO.

YES, THISSE ETARTH DAY FEELS VE

DIFFERENT THAN LAST EARTH DAY.

>> DID THE NATURAL WORLD HAVE

TIME TO HEAL?

THERE WAS SORT OF A BELIEF AT

THE BEGINNING OF LOCKDOWN THAT

PERHAPS THIS COULD BE A BLESSING

IN DISGUISE, BECAUSE WITHOUT

HUMANS DRIVING EVERYWHERE AND

PERHAPS DOING SOME OF THE

POLLUTING THINGS THAT WE USUALLY

DO, AGAIN, IN THEORY, THAT THIS

WOULD GIVE THE PLANET A CHANCE

TO HEAL ITSELF.

>> YEAH.

WELL, I THINK THE NUMBER ONE

THING THAT HAPPENED WAS AMIDST

THE PANDEMIC ALL OF A SUDDEN

PEOPLE WHO COULD GET OUTSIDE

DEVELOPED A STRONGER CONNECTION

TO NATURE.

NOW, THAT NATURE COULD BE WALKS

IN THE WOODS IN A BIG FOREST

SOMEWHERE, YOU KNOW, AROUND THE

STATE OR IN THE CITY, OR EVEN

JUST SOME OF OUR SMALL LIKE

POCKET PARKS AROUND THE CITY.

THERE WE WERE INSIDE OUR FOUR

WALLS, AND THE PLACE WE COULD GO

OUT AND GET AIR AND SOMEHOW

MANAGE OUR STRESS WAS IN NATURE.

AND WE SAW AN INCREDIBLE SURGE

IN VISITATION.

THE NATURE CONSERVANCY, WE HAVE

ABOUT 150 PRESERVES ALL ACROSS

THE STATE.

SOME OF OUR PRESERVES SAW A 300%

INCREASE IN VISITATION LAST

SPRING, THREE TIMES THE NUMBER

OF PEOPLE ALL WANTING TO BE OUT

IN NATURE.

I THINK THAT REALLY CHANGED

THINGS AND PEOPLE REALIZED THAT

THERE WAS THIS ALMOST LIKE A

PRESCRIPTION DRUG, LIKE OH MY

GOSH, MY STRESS IS GOING DOWN, I

FEEL BETTER.

SO I THINK THAT IS SOMETHING

THAT'S GOING TO DRIVE A BIG

CHANGE.

YES, AS YOU ALLUDED TO, THE CITY

GREW QUIET, PLANES WEREN'T

FLYING OVER.

I LIVE NEAR RIVERSIDE PARK.

YOU WOULD WALK OVER THERE IN

BROAD DAYLIGHTS.

THERE WERE FAMILIES OF RACCOONS

WALKING AROUND.

IT FELT VERY DIFFERENT.

THE HONEST TRUTH IS THAT

RELATIVE TO WHAT WE NEED TO DO

TO CLIMATE CHANGE, IT WASN'T

THAT DRAMATIC AND IT PUT THINGS

IN PERSPECTIVE LIKE JUST HOW

FUNDAMENTALLY WE NEED TO CHANGE

THE WAY WE GET ENERGY, THE WAY

WE DESIGN AND BUILD OUR

TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE.

I THINK IT WAS A TASTE OF

POSSIBLE, BUT IT'S A REMINDER OF

HOW FAR WE HAVE TO GO.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

ACTUALLY IT'S REALLY TOUGH.

THE LAST TRIP I TOOK OVERSEAS

BEFORE THE PANDEMIC WAS TO VISIT

AFRICA IN KENYA.

THEY FUNDAMENTALLY RELY ON

TOURIST REVENUE IN ORDER TO DO

THEIR CONSERVATION EFFORTS.

WHEN YOU SEE THE COLLAPSE OF THE

TOURIST ECONOMY IN PLACES LIKE

EAST AFRICA AND THE CARIBBEAN,

CONSERVATION EFFORTS GET HIT

REALLY HARD.

WE DO NEED TO EMERGE FROM THE

PANDEMIC GET BACK TO VISITING

SOME OF THESE PLACES.

WE NEED TO DO IT IN A MORE

SUSTAINABLE WAY.

>> WELL, DID THE PANDEMIC ALSO

HAVE OTHER UNINTENDED PERHAPS

CONSEQUENCES FOR THE

ENVIRONMENT?

WHAT WE TEND TO HEAR A LOT ABOUT

NOW IS THE AMOUNT OF GARBAGE WE

ALL SEEM TO CREATE FROM ORDERING

THINGS AND BEING AT HOME, ET

CETERA, AND THUS WHAT THAT MEANS

FOR THE RECYCLING MOVEMENT, THE

LANDFILL MOVEMENT.

DID THE PANDEMIC HAVE UNINTENDED

CONSEQUENCES FOR THE

ENVIRONMENT?

>> I THINK IT SLOWED US DOWN.

MY EXPERIENCE IS IT SLOWED US

DOWN AND WE STARTED PAYING MORE

ATTENTION TO ALL OF THOSE THINGS

I WOULD SAY THE EFFECTS WERE

UNEVEN.

HERE IN NEW YORK CITY, FOR

EXAMPLE, THE CITY HAS CURTAILED

THE COMPOSTING PROGRAM IN

BUILDINGS WHERE YOU COULD SIMPLY

DROP IT OFF IN A BIN IN YOUR

BUILDING.

COMPOST, YOU NEED TO WALK YOUR

COMPOST TO PICKUP SITES.

WHEN YOU'RE HOME EVERY DAY, YOU

REALIZE HOW MUCH FOOD WASTE

YOU'RE GENERATING.

THAT'S A HUGE SOURCE OF WEIGHT

AND VOLUME IN LANDFILLS AND

EMISSIONS.

THE OTHER THING THAT HAPPENED

TOO WAS, IT WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF

THE PANDEMIC THAT THE PLASTIC

BAG BAN FINALLY WENT INTO

IMPLEMENTATION.

IT WAS ORIGINALLY POSTPONED

BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC.

NOW NEW YORK HAS REALLY SWITCHED

OVER TO REUSABLE BAGS.

I'M SEEING THEM EVERYWHERE.

IT JUST SHOWS THESE THINGS THAT

WE THINK MIGHT BE HARD ACTUALLY

AREN'T THAT HARD FOR US.

SO I THINK THE SLOWING DOWN, THE

REFLECTION IN PAYING ATTENTION

IS GOING TO SERVE US ALL WELL IN

THE LONG-TERM INTEREST OF

SUSTAINABILITY.

>> I'D BE REMISS IF I DIDN'T

ALSO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE WAY

WE'RE SORT OF TALKING ABOUT THE

PANDEMIC IS ALSO THE WAY A

CERTAIN CLASS OF AMERICANS

EXPERIENCED THE PANDEMIC.

A LOT OF PEOPLE, THE PANDEMIC

EXPOSED SOME OF THE INCREDIBLE

GREAT INEQUITIES IN OUR SOCIETY.

SO I'M WONDERING HOW DOES NOT

JUST ECONOMIC, BUT ALSO RACIAL

INEQUITY, HOW DOES THAT ALSO

AFFECT THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOW

PEOPLE'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE

ENVIRONMENT HAS CHANGED?

>> THIS IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT

POINT AND QUESTION, JENNA.

YOU KNOW, IT IS SO CLEAR WHO'S

BEEN MOST AFFECTED BY COVID-19,

WHO HAS HAD THE FEWEST RESOURCES

AVAILABLE TO THEM, WHO HAS

SUFFERED THE HIGHEST MORBIDITY

AND MORTALITY RATES.

TO BE HONEST, THAT SAME HISTORY

IS TRUE OF ENVIRONMENT EFFECTS

OR WE'LL CALL IT POLLUTION

EFFECTS IN THE UNITED STATES.

SO THERE'S A LONG HISTORY OF

CITING ENERGY PRODUCTION AND

POLLUTING PROJECTS, FACILITIES

IN NEIGHBORHOODS THAT ARE LOWER

INCOME, LESS POWERFUL, OFTEN OF

COLOR.

I THINK ALL THE THINGS THAT HAVE

HAPPENED AROUND BLACK LIVES

MATTER, SOCIAL EQUITY AND

JUSTICE, THAT PUSH, THAT IS

PERMEATING IN VERY POWERFUL WAYS

CONSERVATION AND THE

ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT.

THERE HAS LONG BEEN AN

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT

IN THE UNITED STATES.

IT'S BEEN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT

AND IT'S BROUGHT US SOME KEY

CHANGES ALONG THE WAY.

I THINK YOU'RE RIGHT.

I THINK AS A RESULT OF THE

PANDEMIC THE HEIGHTENED

AWARENESS AROUND THIS IS GOING

TO AFFECT THE WAY WE TACKLE

ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES.

JUST TO GIVE YOU TWO QUICK

EXAMPLES, HERE IN NEW YORK WE

HAVE THE CLIMATE LEADERSHIP AND

COMMUNITY PROTEST ACT.

IT IS VERY MUCH GEARED TOWARDS

THINKING ABOUT VULNERABLE

COMMUNITIES AND PUTTING

DISPROPORTIONATE RESOURCES

TOWARDS THEM TO ENSURE THEIR

SAFETY AND HEALTH.

THAT KIND OF LEGISLATION WE

HAVEN'T SEEN HISTORICALLY IN

THIS COUNTRY.

I THINK THIS IS CHANGING, NOT

FAST ENOUGH, BUT IT'S CHANGING

IN IMPORTANT WAYS.

>> OF COURSE.

I WANT TO CIRCLE BACK TO AN

EARLIER POINT YOU MADE WHERE YOU

WERE TALKING ABOUT HOW IN KENYA

THEIR CONSERVATION EFFORTS RELY

VERY HEAVILY ON TOURIST DOLLARS.

WHILE THAT MIGHT NOT NECESSARILY

BE THE SAME CASE HERE, THE STATE

BUDGETS, GOVERNMENT HAS AN

IMPACT ON CONSERVATION EFFORTS.

WE KNOW THAT NEW YORK STATE

SUFFERED SOME HUGE LOSSES AS A

RESULT OF THE PANDEMIC.

SO I'M WONDERING HOW DID THAT

AFFECT INITIATIVES THAT THE

STATE MIGHT HAVE?

>> AS I LIKE TO SAY, WE'RE

INCREDIBLY FORTUNATE TO BE NEW

YORKERS, BECAUSE NEW YORK REALLY

DOES LEAD THE WAY NATIONALLY ON

THE ENVIRONMENT, CONSERVATION,

CLIMATE CHANGE.

WE SET AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS.

AND THERE WAS A DEEP-SEATED

CONCERN LAST FALL WITH THE

PREVIOUS PRESIDENTIAL

ADMINISTRATION, WORRIES ABOUT

THE ECONOMY.

BUT NOW WITH THE NEW

ADMINISTRATION AND THE SUPPORT

THAT'S COMING TO STATES AND IT

HELPS THAT THE SENATE MAJORITY

LEADER IS FROM NEW YORK AS WELL.

YOU KNOW, NEW YORK IS RECEIVING

SIGNIFICANT, SIGNIFICANT

RESOURCES.

SO THINGS THAT WE THOUGHT WOULD

BE ENVIRONMENTAL IN CONSERVATION

INVESTMENTS, NOT ONLY WENT FROM

BEING ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK ARE

NOW FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS OF

WHERE NEW YORK IS GOING.

THE NEW STATE BUDGET HAS A

BILLION DOLLARS FOR CONSERVATION

FUNDING.

SO THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

FUND THAT HELPS THINGS LIKE OPEN

SPACE, CLEAN WATER AND

INVESTMENT IN OUR STATE PARKS.

THESE ARE BIG CHUNKS OF

RESOURCES FOR CONSERVATION.

THE OTHER THING THAT THE STATE

ANNOUNCED IS THAT WE WILL BE

RUNNING A $3 BILLION

ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATE CHANGE

BOND ACT IN NOVEMBER OF 2022.

SO NOT THIS ELECTION CYCLE, BUT

NEXT ELECTION CYCLE.

THIS IS BUILT TO CREATE 65,000

WELL-PAYING, GREEN, SUSTAINABLE

JOBS AROUND RENEWABLE ENERGY,

BUILDING MORE CLIMATE-RESILIENT

INFRASTRUCTURE, INVESTING IN

NATURE AS WAYS TO CAPTURE CARBON

AND REDUCE THE EFFECTS OF

CLIMATE CHANGE.

SO NEW YORK, WE WERE KIND OF

TEETERING AND WE WERE ALL

WATCHING.

NOW I JUST HAVE TO SAY THAT THE

STATE ONCE AGAIN IS OUT FRONT

AND SETTING THE NATIONAL

EXAMPLE.

>> NEVER LET IT BE SAID THAT

NATURE DOESN'T SEEM TO FIND A

WAY TO REMIND US OF ITS

IMPORTANCE AND ITS IMPACT.

I CAN'T LET YOU GO WITHOUT

ASKING ABOUT THE CICADAS.

I UNDERSTAND THIS IS LIKE A ONCE

IN A 17-YEAR THING.

FRANKLY, I LIVE IN THE HUDSON

VALLEY.

SHOULD I BE AFRAID?

>> DEFINITELY NOT.

MY WIFE IS KIND OF OBSESSED AS

WELL.

THE CICADAS, THERE ARE DIFFERENT

CATEGORIES AND THEY HAVE THESE

LONG PERIODS OF DORMANCY AND

THEN THEY EMERGE.

I THINK THIS IS A 17-YEAR CYCLE.

IT PASSES.

THEY DON'T BITE.

THEY MAKE NOISE.

A LOT OF US, MYSELF INCLUDED,

HAVE CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

ASSOCIATED WITH THE SOUNDS OF

THE CICADAS.

SO NO REASON TO BE WORRIED

WHATSOEVER.

IT'S JUST NATURAL PROCESSES

UNFOLDING AROUND US IN ONE OF

THE MOST DEVELOPED CITIES IN THE

WORLD, BUT WHERE WE'RE STILL

CONNECTED TO NATURE.

AND THAT'S PRETTY COOL, BECAUSE

WE NEED IT.

>> OF COURSE.

I HOPE THAT ONCE WE'RE ABLE TO

HAVE PEOPLE GATHERING TOGETHER,

THAT IT'S NOT TOO MUCH OF A

DEC

DEAFENING SOUND.

BILL ULFELDER, EXECUTIVE

DIRECTOR FOR THE NEW YORK NATURE

CONSER

CONSERVANCY.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING

US.

>> THANKS, JENNA.

IT'S A PLEASURE.

IT REALLY DOES FEEL LIKE A DAY

TO CELEBRATE.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

>>> HI.

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

DID YOU KNOW THAT IF YOU TOOK

ALL THE TREES IN NEW YORK CITY

AND PUT THEM TOGETHER, IT WOULD

MAKE UP AN ENTIRE FOREST?

THESE APPROXIMATELY 7 MILLION

TREES ARE LIVING, BREATHING

PARTS OF THE CITY'S ECOSYSTEM

AND VITAL RESOURCES TO OUR

COMMUNITIES.

THEY CLEAN AND COOL OUR AIR,

PROVIDE A CONNECTION TO NATURE

THAT CAN BE OTHERWISE PRETTY

HARD TO FIND.

BUT THIS URBAN FOREST IS NOT

DISTRIBUTED EVENLY ACROSS BOROU.

ACCORDING TO THE NEW YORK NATURE

CONSERVANCY, THE AREAS WITH THE

LOWEST TREE COVER TEND TO BE

COMMUNITY OF COLOR AND LOW

INCOME COMMUNITIES.

TO TALK ABOUT A TASK FORCE AND

PART OF AN INITIATIVE, OUR EMILY

NOBLE MAXWELL, CITY'S DIRECTOR

FOR THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IN

NEW YORK.

WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

>> THANK YOU, JENNA.

>> AND WE'RE ALSO JOINED TODAY

BY ANEL HERNANDEZ, ASSOCIATE

DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK CITY

ENVIRONMENTAL AND JUSTICE

ALLIANCE.

WELCOME.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.

>> FOR PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE

SCRATCHING THEIR HEAD AT THE

NOTION OF AN URBAN FOREST, I

GUESS WE GET A SENSE OF THE

DESCRIPTION IN THE INTRO, BUT

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE AN URBAN

FOREST AND WHAT IS ITS

SIGNIFICANCE IN A CITY LIKE NEW

YORK?

>> ABSOLUTELY.

OUR URBAN FOREST IS EVERY TREE

IN NEW YORK CITY, WHICH IS MORE

THAN 7 MILLION TREES, AND ALL OF

THE PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL

INFRASTRUCTURE UPON WHICH THEY

DEPEND.

FORESTS ARE ALWAYS UNIQUE AND

FASCINATING SYSTEMS.

OUR URBAN FOREST IS NO LESS

FASCINATING.

IT'S ALL OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE

THAT SUPPORTS OUR FOREST AS

WELL.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

IT'S FOR ALL THE REASONS YOU

SHARED.

IT PROVIDES US TREMENDOUS

BENEFITS, BOTH TANGIBLE AND

INTANGIBLE.

WE ALL KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE

TO WALK DOWN THE STREET WITH

SHADE ON A HOT SUMMER DAY.

I ASK YOU TO HOLD THAT IN YOUR

MIND AS WE TALK ABOUT THE

FOREST.

>> OF COURSE.

I ALSO MENTIONED THAT THE FOREST

OR THE TREE COVER, AS IT'S

PROBABLY BETTER DESCRIBED, ISN'T

DISTRIBUTED EVENLY.

I MEAN, WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT,

IT DOES MAKE SENSE, UNFORTUNATE

SENSE BUT IT DOES MAKE SENSE.

CAN YOU SORT OF EXPAND ON WHAT

IT WAS THAT THE TASK FORCE WAS

ABLE TO SUSS OUT?

>> MY ORGANIZATION, WE REALLY

FOCUS ON UPLIFTING THE ADVOCACY

OF COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AND LOW

INCOME COMMUNITIES AS THEY FIGHT

FOR HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES AND

AGAINST THESE CLUSTERING

ENVIRONMENTAL BURDENS.

REALLY, STREET TREES AND OUR

URBAN FOREST CAN HELP DEAL WITH

THAT DISPROPORTIONATE BURDEN

WE'RE FACING BY HELPING IMPROVE

THE AIR QUALITY AND HELPING

MITIGATE URBAN HEAT ISLAND.

WE ALREADY KNOW, ACCORDING TO

THE NEW YORK CITY PANEL ON

CLIMATE CHANGE, THAT THE NUMBER

OF 90-DEGREE DAYS IS EXPECTED TO

DOUBLE, IF NOT MORE BY 2050.

WE REALLY HAVE TO START BEING

MORE FORWARD-THINKING AND REALLY

VALUING OUR NATURE-BASED

SOLUTIONS AS THEY SHOULD BE.

>> YOU KNOW, EVERY SUMMER THE

NOTION OF THE URBAN HEAT INDEX

COMES UP A LITTLE BIT, BUT FOR

PEOPLE WHO MIGHT NOT EITHER BE

IN THE NEW YORK CITY AREA OR

PERHAPS DON'T LIVE IN A

NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE THAT REALLY

IS GOING TO AFFECT THEM, CAN YOU

SORT OF EXPLAIN FOR THE AUDIENCE

WHAT THAT IS AND THE IMPACT IT

HAS ON A NEIGHBORHOOD?

>> YES, DEFINITELY.

THINK OF COMMUNITIES LIKE HUNTS

POINT, WHERE THEY'RE SURROUNDED

BY INDUSTRIAL INFRASTRUCTURE, BY

ENDLESS CONCRETE AND BUILDINGS

WITH NO GREENERY ON THEM, AND

ALL OF THAT IS REALLY RETAINING

THE HEAT.

SO YOU HAVE THAT EFFECT, PLUS

THE ADDITIONAL NUMBER OF HEAT

WAVES THAT WE'RE DEALING WITH, A

LACK OF GREEN SPACE, A LACK OF

PARKS IN THE COMMUNITY AND THEN

THAT REALLY CAN EXACERBATE THE

PREEXISTING HEALTH CONDITIONS IF

YOU ALREADY HAVE ASTHMA OR

ANOTHER PREEXISTING CONDITION,

IT'S GOING TO MAKE YOU MORE

VULNERABLE TO THESE HEAT WAVES.

IT'S PARTICULARLY TRUE FOR OUR

SENIOR CITIZENS AND FOR THE

CHILDREN IN OUR COMMUNITIES.

>> SO THEN, EMILY, I UNDERSTAND

THAT THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

CONVENED A TASK FORCE TO ADDRESS

THIS URBAN FOREST INEQUITY.

IS THIS JUST A MATTER OF JUST

PLANTING MORE TREES IN DIFFERENT

AREAS, OR WHAT EXACTLY NEEDS TO

BE DONE?

>> THAT'S A FANTASTIC QUESTION.

SO I WANT TO BE CLEAR, THE NEW

YORK CITY URBAN FOREST TASK

FORCE IS NEARLY 50 ORGANIZATIONS

THAT HAVE COME TOGETHER TO SET

AN AGENDA FOR NEW YORK CITY'S

URBAN FOREST.

IT FOCUSES DEFINITELY ON EQUITY,

BUT ALSO ON RESILIENCY AND

SUSTAINABILITY.

TOGETHER WE'VE REALLY

ESTABLISHED WHAT THAT AGENDA CAN

BE.

WHILE I CAN'T TELL YOU THE

ENTIRETY OF THE AGENDA WHICH

WILL BE PUBLICLY RELEASED IN

JUNE, WHAT I CAN SHARE IS THAT

PLANTING IS FANTASTIC AND

PLANTING ALONE ISN'T SUFFICIENT.

WE ALSO NEED CARE AND

MAINTENANCE OF OUR EXISTING

TREES TO ENSURE THAT THEY THRIVE

AND GROW AND SUSTAIN.

WE NEED ONGOING SCIENCE AND

MONITORING TO MAKE SURE THAT WE

KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON WITH THAT

SYSTEM AND WE ALSO KNOW THAT

SOMETIMES EVEN WHEN WE DO OUR

BEST TO TAKE CARE OF TREES, WE

FACE TREE LOSS THROUGH

CATASTROPHIC EVENTS LIKE STORMS

AND SOMETIMES INTENTIONAL TREE

REMOVAL.

WHEN TREES ARE LOST AND REMOVED,

WE NEED TO BE SURE THAT THAT

ASSET IS SOMEHOW REPLACED OR

MADE UP FOR.

SO WE NEED TO PRESERVE WHAT WE

HAVE, WE NEED TO CARE, STEWARD

AND MAINTAIN WHAT WE HAVE, AND

WE NEED TO PLANT NEW, IN MORE

EQUITABLE WAYS AND THEN CARE FOR

THAT.

>> I'M JUST WONDERING HOW DOES

SOMETHING LIKE THAT WORK?

OF COURSE IN A CITY LIKE NEW

YORK WHERE IT SEEMS LIKE EVERY

SQUARE INCH IS JUST SO VALUABLE,

HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO FIND SPACE

THAT IS GOING TO BE USED JUST

FOR GREENERY, FOR TREES OR FOR

OTHER PLANTS?

>> I LOVE THIS QUESTION, BECAUSE

ACTUALLY THERE IS TREMENDOUS

POTENTIAL IN NEW YORK CITY FOR

INCREASING BOTH THE NUMBER OF

TREES AND THE TREE CANOPY WHICH

IS THE COVER THAT IT PROVIDES

FOR US.

SO RIGHT NOW, THE MAJORITY OF

OUR URBAN TREE CANOPY IS MANAGED

BY NEW YORK CITY PARKS, ABOUT

53% OF IT.

SO 47% OF OUR TREE CANOPY IS

SITTING ON EITHER NON PARKLAND,

ON GOVERNMENT LAND OR ON PRIVATE

PROPERTY.

PRIVATE PROPERTY IS HOVERING

AROUND 36%.

SO WITH THAT WE ALSO KNOW THAT

THERE IS TREMENDOUS POTENTIAL ON

EACH OF THESE LAND TYPES.

SO THERE IS ROOM FOR MORE STREET

TREES.

THERE IS ROOM FOR MORE PLANTING

ON PARKLAND, BUT THERE'S ALSO

TREMENDOUS POTENTIAL FOR PRIVATE

PROPERTY.

SO BUILDING A CULTURE OF

STEWARDSHIP AND A CULTURE OF

VALUING NATURE AND TREES IS

GOING TO BE CRITICAL TO

REALIZING THE TRUE POTENTIAL OF

OUR URBAN FOREST.

>> I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD

TELL US, FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE

AT LEAST, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE

POLICIES THAT COULD MAKE A

DIFFERENCE IN CREATING MORE

GREEN SPACE?

WE'VE OVER THE YEARS HEARD

STORIES ABOUT LOW INCOME

NEIGHBORHOODS OR COMMUNITIES OF

COLOR THAT HAVE REALLY HAD TO

FIGHT FOR PLOTS OF LAND TO PUT

IN URBAN GARDENS, BUT ALSO

SOMETIMES YOU FIND LANDLORDS ARE

RESISTANT TO GREEN ROOFS OR

OTHER GREEN SPACES.

WHAT DO YOU THINK NEEDS TO BE

DONE?

>> YEAH.

I WANT TO BUILD ON WHAT EMILY

SAID.

SHE TALKED ABOUT ALL OF THE

DIFFERENT TYPES OF TREES.

ONE OF MY PRIORITIES ARE STREET

TREES.

THEY ARE SUCH AN IMPORTANT ASSET

WHEN WE'RE WALKING TO THE

COMMUNITY, WHEN KIDS ARE WALKING

TO SCHOOL, WHEN ELDERLY PEOPLE

MAY BE WALKING TO A COOLING

CENTER OR GOING TO VISIT FAMILY.

HAVING THAT TREE CANOPY COVERAGE

IS CRITICAL TO PROVIDE CLEANER

AIR, TO PROVIDE JUST SHADE, A

PLACE TO HANG OUT EVEN, YOU

KNOW?

SO THAT'S CRITICAL.

AND THE CITY NEEDS TO INVEST

MORE IN THIS IMPORTANT ASSET.

RIGHT NOW THE PARKS DEPARTMENT

HAS A HUGE MANDATE IN FRONT OF

THEM.

THEY HAVE MILLIONS OF TREES THAT

THEY HAVE TO MANAGE.

AND THE CITY OF NEW YORK NEEDS

TO GIVE THEM THE FUNDING THEY

NEED TO DO IT AND DO IT WELL.

LIKE YOU MENTIONED, IT'S NOT

JUST ABOUT PLANTING TREES, IT'S

ABOUT MAINTAINING THE TREES AND

ENSURING THAT THEY'RE HEALTHY,

ENSURING THAT IF A STORM HAPPENS

AND THEY GET KNOCKED DOWN THAT

SOMEBODY COMES IN AND REPLACES

THEM.

RIGHT NOW THE TIMELINE FOR

REPLACEMENT CAN BE UP TO TWO

YEARS.

THAT'S OUTRAGEOUS.

WE NEED TO REALLY VALUE OUR

STREET TREES AND OUR URBAN

CANOPY COVERAGE.

THERE IS A LOT THAT NEEDS TO BE

DONE.

OF COURSE, LIKE YOU MENTIONED,

THERE'S OTHER TYPES OF GREEN

INFRASTRUCTURE THAT WE SHOULD

ALSO BE PRIORITIZING, WHETHER

IT'S THE BIOSWALES AND RAIN

GARDENS THAT DEP IS BUILDING OR

WHETHER IT'S COASTAL PROTECTION

AND WATERFRONT PARKS ALONG OUR

WATE

WATERWAYS.

THESE ARE ALL CRITICAL PIECES OF

THE SOLUTION.

>> OKAY.

EMILY, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT

SEEMS TO LEAD INTO MY NEXT

QUESTION, WHICH IS OF COURSE THE

COST OF ALL OF THIS.

WE ALL KNOW IN NEW YORK NOTHING

IS FOR FREE.

MY NEXT QUESTION WHICH KIND OF

LEADS INTO THAT IS, HOW DID

COVID, WHICH SEEMS TO HAVE

IMPACTED EVERYTHING, HOW DID

THAT IMPACT THE WORK THAT THE

TASK FORCE WAS DOING?

>> SO COVID REALLY DID TWO

THINGS FOR THE TASK FORCE.

THE FIRST WAS, AND AFSIT WAS AN

INCREDIBLE THING TO SEE, IT

GALVANIZED US.

WE ASKED THE QUESTION TO THE

ALMOST 50 MEMBERS, WE JUST

STARTED THIS PROCESS, SHALL WE

CONTINUE IN THIS NEW REMOTE

WORLD?

AND NOT A SINGLE MEMBER SAID NO.

EVERY MEMBER SAID LET'S KEEP

GOING.

WE SEE THE NEED FOR TREES MORE

THAN EVER AS NEW YORKERS SPEND

MORE TIME OUTSIDE WITH FAMILIES

FOR RECREATION, SAFETY, TAKING A

BREAK FROM WORK.

WE'VE ALL NEEDED OUR OUTDOORS

REALLY AS MUCH OR MORE THAN WE

EVER HAVE THIS YEAR.

I THINK TREES HAVE BECOME THAT

MUCH MORE PRECIOUS TO US.

SO IT GALVANIZED US, BUT IT ALSO

CHALLENGED US.

OBVIOUSLY THERE HAVE BEEN

TREMENDOUS BUDGET CUTS UNDER

COVID FOR LITERALLY EVERYTHING.

AT THE SAME TIME, TREES AND OUR

URBAN FOREST HAVE RECEIVED A

DISPROPORTIONATE CUT.

SO WHILE THE PARKS DEPARTMENT

ITSELF RECEIVED JUST A

TREMENDOUS CUT TO ITS BUDGET, IF

WE LOOK AT TREES SEPARATELY,

THEIR BUDGET GOT CUT EVEN MORE,

NEARLY 90%.

NOW WE'RE IN THE BUDGET CYCLE

FOR THE COMING YEAR.

WE REALLY DO NEED TO RESTORE THE

BUDGET FOR TREES.

SO OUR TREE BUDGET REALLY WAS

PARTICULARLY THE EXPENSE SIDE,

THE CARING FOR TREES SIDE, WAS

LEFT AT ITS LOWEST POINT IN 11

YEARS LAST YEAR.

WE DON'T WANT TO SEE THAT

CONTINUE.

>> WE'VE GOT ABOUT 30 SECONDS

LEFT, BUT I'D LOVE TO KNOW IF

YOU'RE AT ALL OPTIMISTIC ABOUT

THIS RENEWED FOCUS ON

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND

ENVIRONMENTAL EQUITY IN NEW

YORK?

>> DEFINITELY.

I'M VERY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT WHAT

WE CAN MAKE HAPPEN.

WE'RE WORKING CLOSELY WITH OUR

MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS TO REALLY

HONE IN ON THIS ISSUE,

UNDERSTAND OUR AIR QUALITY

ISSUES, UNDERSTAND OUR HEAT

VULNERABILITIES AND ACT ON IT.

I'M VERY HOPEFUL OF THAT AND I'M

PERSONALLY EXCITED TO SEE MORE

STREET TREES ON MY BLOCK.

>> ALL RIGHT.

WE'RE GOING TO END THIS ON AN

OPTIMISTIC NOTE.

LADIES, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

EMILY NOBLE MAXWELL, THE CITY'S

DIRECTOR FOR THE NATURE

CONSERVANCY IN NEW YORK.

AND ARNELL HERNANDEZ OF THE

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ALLIANCE.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

>>"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE

BY --

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN

GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE

AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND

BY --

JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND

JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP

MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH

WESTON, AND THE DR. ROBERT C.

AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE

DR. P. ROY VAGELOS, THE MARK

HAWES FOUNDATION.


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