Through the Gowanus Tree Network, we're engaging and empowering stewards to care for 130 trees in Brooklyn.
Up Above Engaging and empowering tree stewards in Brooklyn. © Jonathan Grassi


Initiative Launched in Gowanus to Improve Health of Street Trees

Gowanus Tree Network Brings Residents Together to Care for Street Trees and Improve Environmental Quality of Neighborhood

The Nature Conservancy and Gowanus Canal Conservancy are pleased to announce the public launch of the Gowanus Tree Network, an initiative bringing together residents of Brooklyn to care for street trees surrounding the Gowanus Canal. By fostering healthy street trees, the network aims to lessen the negative impacts of stormwater on local waterways, reduce street flooding, improve air quality, and lower temperatures during summer months. This initiative builds on more than five years of work by Gowanus Canal Conservancy and its many volunteers to care for trees on the neighborhood’s mostly industrial streets.

The Gowanus Tree Network is bringing together residents from four blocks along the eastern side of the canal to collaborate on several street tree care initiatives throughout the summer of 2018. These Gowanus Tree Ambassadors will work together to engage neighbors in the following stewardship activities: mulching and cultivating soil in tree beds; amending the soil with compost; planting native and adapted plants to improve soil health and beautify the neighborhood; watering young trees during summer droughts; installing protective guards; and, in some instances, widening tree beds to make way for growing trees.

Members of each block will work together on various tree care efforts, with support from Gowanus Canal Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy. In addition, ten Tree Ambassadors were recently trained and licensed as Citizen Pruners through a program offered by Trees New York, gaining the skills and knowledge to expertly care for their block’s trees.

Street trees provide important benefits to New Yorkers across the city, but they are particularly critical in flood-prone Gowanus. Each year, 377 million gallons of combined sewage overflow—a mixture of stormwater and raw sewage—are released into the Gowanus Canal. A 2017 study undertaken by Gowanus Canal Conservancy and TreeKIT, a non-profit urban forestry consulting organization, found that the 3,000 trees growing on streets within a three- to four-block radius of the Gowanus Canal generate an estimated $360,000 in environmental services each year, including:

  • $142,455 of energy savings due to a reduced need for air conditioning;
  • $28,680 in stormwater capture and sewage overflow prevention;
  • $23,652 in air quality improvements; and
  • $3,141 in carbon sequestration and emission prevention.

Street trees need regular care to grow in harsh urban environments and provide the aforementioned benefits. The Gowanus Tree Network aims to foster a growing community of well-connected volunteer stewards on residential blocks surrounding the canal who are ready to work with each other and help their trees thrive.

“The entire Gowanus neighborhood lacks parks and green, permeable space which could mitigate urban heat island, flooding and combined sewage overflow into the Gowanus Canal,” said Andrea Parker, Executive Director of Gowanus Canal Conservancy. “In the past few years, New York City has been investing in street trees and curbside rain gardens around the Canal and throughout the Gowanus Watershed—but we all need to pitch in to make sure these young trees and plants thrive! The Gowanus Tree Ambassadors are taking on an incredibly important role to lead and organize their neighbors to steward a greener Gowanus for all.”

“New Yorkers rely on nearly seven hundred thousand street trees for cleaner water in their harbor, clearer air in their communities, and cooler buildings and streets in the summer,” said Philip Silva, Managing Scientist for the New York City Program of The Nature Conservancy. “Those same street trees rely on New Yorkers like the members of the Gowanus Tree Network to keep them alive and healthy. The Nature Conservancy is thrilled to partner with Gowanus Canal Conservancy on organizing this new network of tree stewards, helping neighbors come together and care for the trees on their blocks.”

The initiative kicked off on Saturday, May 5th, with a tree bed stewardship day at PS 118 on 4th Avenue between 7th Street and 8th Street, one of the blocks represented in the Gowanus Tree Network by Tree Ambassadors Anna Stevens and Uriah Crane. Members of the network worked with the school community to improve the soil in tree beds surrounding the school, plant ornamental plants, and prepare the trees for warmer months.

“The Gowanus Tree Network has been incredibly rewarding and a wonderful way to connect with my community,” said Gowanus Tree Ambassador Anna Stevens. “In the past few months, my network of neighbors has expanded tenfold, and we all share a dedication to improving the green infrastructure of Gowanus. By partnering with PS 118, we hope that the same sense of pride, stewardship, and awareness spreads beyond this block and back to the streets where these children live.”

Additional volunteer days are being planned for the summer.

The Gowanus Tree Network is an essential part of Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Gowanus Lowlands vision and The Nature Conservancy’s New York City Program. For more information about the Gowanus Tree Network, visit


The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.