A new coalition, Forest for All NYC, announced today the release of the NYC Urban Forest Agenda, a first-of-its-kind report that provides a clear, visionary roadmap for New York City’s urban forest. The NYC Urban Forest Agenda is a strategic plan to protect, maintain, expand, and promote the urban forest, and build a more resilient and equitable New York City. A cross-sector group, including environmental justice, conservation, non-profit, business, and government leaders and organizations, spent two years developing the Agenda. Now, the new and growing Forest for All NYC coalition has launched to advance the Agenda’s goals.
New York City’s urban forest is comprised of all the trees in the city on both public and private property and the physical and social infrastructure that support them. More than 7 million trees make up New York City’s urban forest, enhancing quality of life, improving public health, protecting New Yorkers from climate change, and providing recreation year-round. These 7 million trees are cared for and maintained by thousands of paid and volunteer tree stewards, researchers, advocates, and other practitioners.
Despite delivering an estimated $260 million in environmental, public health, infrastructure, and energy benefits to New Yorkers annually, there is no dedicated, long-term funding to care for this essential asset, nor a coordinated vision or plan for its management. The city also lacks a long-term Master Plan to ensure the urban forest is equitably distributed and accessible, particularly to low-income communities and communities of color who are most harmed by pollution, extreme heat, and environmental racism. Unless strategic action is taken, the future of the urban forest will remain in jeopardy. Forest for All NYC is advancing the NYC Urban Forest Agenda to present a clear vision and plan to restore, protect, and grow the urban forest.
"Every person who lives and works in New York City deserves to be in a neighborhood with healthy trees and all the benefits they provide. This report is a cross-sector, collaborative effort in service towards making that a reality. As the city enters hurricane season in our new normal, where it is projected to be increasingly more destructive with each passing year, the NYC Urban Forest Agenda provides a clear roadmap for investing in the future of New York so it can endure increasing heat waves and extreme weather, as well as combat environmental injustice and health and educational disparities.” – Emily Nobel Maxwell, New York Cities Program Director, The Nature Conservancy
"The Natural Areas Conservancy is an enthusiastic member of Forest for All NYC, and we celebrate the release of the NYC Urban Forest Agenda. New York City’s urban forest provides New Yorkers with countless benefits, including hundreds of miles of nature trails. The NYC Urban Forest Agenda presents a timely and important vision for the role of forests in advancing the goals of equity, resilience, and quality of life for all residents." – Sarah Charlop-Powers, Executive Director, Natural Areas Conservancy
"To build a more resilient city, New York City must prioritize nature-based solutions that address disproportionate heat vulnerability and air quality issues, while providing greater access to green spaces. Growing and maintaining our city's urban forest is an integral piece of environmental justice, and the NYC Urban Forest Agenda provides a pathway forward." – Annel Hernandez, Associate Director, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance
“REBNY is proud to be part of crafting the NYC Urban Forest Agenda. We all have a responsibility to support the NYC urban forest, which plays an important role in advancing our shared goals of supporting public health, protecting our environment, and improving New York City’s streets, parks, and private and public spaces.” – James Whelan, President, Real Estate Board of New York
"Forests are critical to our communities and our planet. They purify our air, clean our water, remove carbon from the atmosphere, and mitigate the urban heat island effect. Preventing the loss of forest ecosystems and promoting their restoration is one of the most powerful – and least expensive – solutions for combating climate change. We are excited to join the Forest for All NYC coalition to advocate for a long-term plan to fund, preserve, and expand our urban forests." – Carlos Castell Croke, Associate for New York City Programs, NY League of Conservation Voters
"A healthy and robust urban forest is more important now than ever. Every year the effects of climate change are becoming more evident. Extreme weather events, like record-breaking heatwaves and flash floods, place extra stress on our environment. The NYC Urban Forest Agenda outlines a comprehensive plan to expand and diversify our urban forest and tree advocates across the city are coming together to realize this vision! Together, Forest for All NYC will expand and diversify our urban forest so that every neighborhood in New York City enjoys the numerous benefits that trees offer.” – Nelson Villarrubia, Executive Director, Trees New York
“It has been encouraging to work with such a dedicated group of organizations around the NYC Urban Forest Agenda, which centers issues of equity and acknowledges that the best way to achieve our urban forestry goals is through inclusive and sustainable collaboration." – Siobhan Watson, Program Manager, Capital Projects Recovery and Resiliency, NYCHA and Delma Palma, Community Design Architect, NYCHA
“The NYC Urban Forest Agenda presents an important vision for a future New York City that prioritizes sustainability, resiliency, and better quality of life for all New Yorkers, both in our parks and open spaces and along our streets. We need New York City leaders to pay close attention to this comprehensive plan, which aligns with our Five Point Plan for Park Equity to prioritize investments that will help New York City create a 21st century parks system.” – Adam Ganser, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks
“The NYC Urban Forest Agenda offers a collaborative vision and set of targeted actions for expanding and supporting New York City's urban forest as a resilient, equitable resource for all New Yorkers. This work aligns with the USDA Forest Service's mission of ‘caring for the land and serving people’ and leverages Forest Service research expertise on environmental stewardship and forest health.” – Lindsay Campbell, Research Social Scientist, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, NYC Urban Field Station
"New York City’s urban forest is a critical asset for all New Yorkers. The NYC Urban Forest Agenda presents a real opportunity to expand the urban forest and reframe New York City’s green and open spaces as critical urban infrastructure to ensure the multiple benefits reach those most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19, climate change, and other extreme events." – Timon McPhearson, Director of the Urban Systems Lab, The New School
"The West 80s Neighborhood Association and Love Your Street Tree Day are thrilled to have been a founding member of the Urban Forest Task Force and now look forward to continuing our street tree care volunteer work and advocacy for street tree stewardship with the Forest for All NYC coalition. To align with so many other environmental and community groups that similarly promote the benefits of urban trees for our residents, visitors, and the environment has been a rewarding and uplifting experience, especially as we were able to continue our productive meetings virtually during the pandemic. This diverse and creative coalition, spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy of New York, filled an important municipal void by drafting the NYC Urban Forest Agenda – a holistic plan that we hope will be implemented in order to increase, maintain, and protect our beautiful New York City trees while serving the public good." – Melissa Elstein, Co-founder of the West 80s Neighborhood Association & Love Your Street Tree Day
"The DEC is proud to have been a part of developing a new, bigger and better NYC Urban Forest Agenda. By bringing people of all backgrounds together and including their perspectives and comments, this new coalition--Forest for All NYC--is confident it created an urban forestry plan that will improve and enhance the city’s trees and green spaces for all its residents" – Rob Davies, NYS Forester and Director of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Lands and Forests
“Humans love trees. They've given us shelter, food, tools, and a spiritual connection to nature. We can add one more item to the list. In the face of a warmer climate, trees can keep our cities and towns habitable, according to the NYC Urban Forest Agenda. Trees are Mother Nature's air conditioners!" – Len Maniace, Board Member of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group
"As I explore the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s plant family collections, I’ve come to understand that they reflect the diversity of this vibrant city. We can learn many things from these trees and the thousands of other plant species that comprise the vegetation of New York City. Beyond the symbolic lessons of living in community, they also serve as tangible teachers of how climate change will impact these plants, and how trees and other plants can be crucial tools to mitigate the impacts and slow the growth of climate change." – Adrian Benepe, President of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
“Our urban forest improves our quality of life and helps the future.” – Scott Marotta, Specialist, ConEdison
“The NYC Urban Forest Agenda gives a voice to one of the city’s most valuable assets, its trees. New York City’s street trees, park woodlands, and vestigial forests enhance our quality of life through their beauty, ability to clean the air we breathe, and shelter they provide. As stewards of the urban landscape, we embrace this agenda as a powerful social and environmental framework to protect and expand the tree canopy across the five boroughs for generations to come.” – Gail Wittwer-Laird, Principal of Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners
“The evidence is clear that time in nature is beneficial for our health and well-being. A collaborative effort to protect, maintain, and expand access to green space is critical for helping all New Yorkers experience nature and its many health benefits.” – Tracy Perrizo, Program Officer, Helmsley Charitable Trust’s New York City Program, the lead funder of the NYC Urban Forest Agenda
“Forest for All NYC’s Urban Forest Agenda creates a tremendous opportunity to achieve an ambitious but necessary goal. As we move forward, any tree removed in New York City should be replaced in kind or beyond to create a sustainable future.” - Pamela Pettyjohn, President of Coney Island Beautification Project
The heart of the NYC Urban Forest Agenda is a comprehensive call to action with a dozen recommendations to strengthen New York City’s Urban Forest through planning, managing, funding, research, and policy and ensure equitable access to this vital resource for everyone:
- Achieve 30% Canopy Cover by 2035
- Support Development of Community-Scale Urban Forest Plans and Goals
- Establish a Master Plan for the Urban Forest
- Grow and Sustain the Forest for All NYC Coalition
- Cultivate Urban Forest Careers
- Increase and Equitably Distribute Funding for Urban Forestry Projects
- Strengthen Tree Regulations and Establish Incentive Programs
- Set Tree Planting and Management Standards
- Develop Conditions to Transform Wood Waste into a Sustainable Local Resource
- Create an Urban Forestry Research and Monitoring Agenda
- Establish Citywide Educational and Tree Stewardship Events
- Monitor Urban Forest Environment and Health
To read the full NYC Urban Forest Agenda or join the Forest for All NYC coalition, visit ForestforAll.nyc.
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 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.