On Saturday morning (Earth Day) nearly 500 volunteers gathered at Queensbridge Park in Long Island City to plant 100 trees. Volunteers were of all ages dressed in jeans or workout clothes. There were piles of shovels, gardening gloves and wheelbarrows set up at each of the color-coded stations.
JetBlue Airways teamed with New York Restoration Project, the nonprofit that has partnered with the city to plant a million trees throughout the city by 2017, to put on the fifth annual One Thing That’s Green event.
After the planting, JetBlue’s commitment isn’t over. The company, based in Astoria, will water these trees for two years, according to NYRP Executive Director Amy Frei-tag.
JetBlue also pledged to plant one tree in Haiti for each customer who flew on Earth Day, which totals an estimated 83,000 trees.
Out of the 100 trees 41 were planted in the Queensbridge Houses, which is the largest public housing complex in the United States.
“There are high rates of asthma here. Long Island City is in desperate need of these efforts,” state Sen. Mike Gianaris said.
Often areas with a large minority population and low-income housing bare the brunt of the effects of these bad conditions, according to Gianaris.
According to ny.gov children up to 4 years old from low-income families have an asthma hospitalization rate of four times the rate as children in high-income areas. For people ages 15 to 44 in low-income areas the hospitalization rate jumps to 6.4 times the hospitalization rate of high-income communities.
A stretch from the South Bronx through Queens — including Long Island City, where Queensbridge Park is located — to North Brooklyn contains six power plants and LaGuardia Airport, which creates tougher breathing conditions. Trees eleviate that problem by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air.
Greg T from radio station Z100’s Elvis Duran and the Morning Show was joined by a very buff fitness expert to lead the volunteers in some early morning, pre-tree planting stretches.
Government, Million Tress NYC and JetBlue Airways speakers said a few words before the masses split into groups and marched off to their respective areas.
Many JetBlue employees were at the event.
“We’ll transform this park in one day,” Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said.
“We work for JetBlue, but it’s also good for my son to be here. Also we are showing our community we care,” said volunteer arborist Christine Gottlieb of Flushing.
Besides planting trees the volunteers maintained garden beds.
A group of sixth through eighth graders from IS 59 in Springfield Gardens weeded a section of the park. A group of middle schoolers come from the school each year.
“I like nature, but I don’t get to plant trees ever,” eighth grader Alana Jacques,14, said.