From Behind the Mounds: TreesCount!, the decennial street tree census

TreesCount2015Here at Freshkills Park, we’re fans of trees. I mean, we’re a park, how could we not be? This year, the NYC Parks Department is conducting its decennial street tree census, TreesCount, and we’re teaming up to count a bunch of street trees outside of the park. In 2005-2006, volunteers and NYC Parks staff counted 592,130 street trees, which is no small task, and this year they’re hoping for more, thanks in part to the MillionTreesNYC campaign (NYC Parks).

imgresTreesCount isn’t just about counting; it’s about taking stock of what kind of trees are on our streets and how they’re doing. Volunteers are trained in data collection and tree identification, and are asked to record the species, size, and location of the tree, along with some metrics of its health. The health of these trees is important, as street trees provide many benefits to our city. They “intercept 890.6 million gallons of stormwater annually, or 1,525 gallons per tree on average (MillionTreesNYC).” Our street trees also filter carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere, provide shade during the hot summer months, and provide vital habitat for urban wildlife. MillionTreesNYC has calculated that “trees provide $5.60 in benefits for every dollar spent on tree planting and care,” which is an economic benefit that pretty much everyone can get behind.


Street trees in New Dorp, Staten Island (courtesy

The 2005-2006 Census identified 168 different species of street trees in the city, with the most common species being the London Plane. Some people say that the NYC Parks leaf is a London Plane leaf, but that’s debatable, and the consensus seems to be that it’s more of a NYC leaf archetype, the leafiest of leaves. The last Census also showed us that although Staten Island may be the borough of parks, it’s not the borough of the most street trees. That title belongs to Manhattan, with 49.4 trees per mile of sidewalk (SI comes in at 48.6 trees per mile of sidewalk). Almost a quarter of NYC is covered in trees, and a quarter of those are street trees (NYC Parks), so this year get out there and help us take stock of how those vitally important trees are doing. Sign up for a training session and join up for a mapping event in your neighborhood at

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