Hot on the tail of New York City hitting the 1 million mark in a citywide tree-planting campaign, one council member from the Upper West Side of Manhattan wants to bestow 200 trees around town with their very own email addresses.
So what trees, you ask, would get priority? After all, there are now 5.2 million and counting to choose from.
The ones standing long before the MillionTreesNYC initiative kicked off?
Or would the newbies — fresh on the scene and perhaps more needy than their decades-old brethren — get their own treemail handles, too? This seems only fair — after all, would all those stately old-timers even know what to do with an email address? Would they immediately throw up their branches in frustration?
From the sounds of it, selection would skew toward the older trees. As reported by Gothamist, the selection process doesn't sound too dissimilar from the city's Great Tree designation and would take into consideration numerous factors, including height, width, appearance, historic significance and age.
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The tree email bill was drafted by council member Mark Levine, who presides over the particularly leafy confines of District 7, an area that stretches from Lincoln Square to southern Harlem between Central Park and the Hudson River.
“NYC is a tough place to be a tree," Levine explained to Gothamist. “By giving each tree a unique email address, it makes it really easy to report problems.” Levine is essentially the council’s “tree guy” as the chair for the Committee on Parks and Recreation. He’s also been a vocal leader in the movement to transform Hart Island, a closed-to-the-public public cemetery — into a very much open-to-the-public park.
While Levine’s spokesman Tyrone Stevens has said that assigning various trees email addresses is “not meant to serve as a maintenance hot-line so much as a mechanism for deepening public engagement with the trees,” of course the primary function of the addresses would be for the general public to report downed branches, signs of damage or decay and other crucial tree tidbits to parks department staffers. Love letters, of course, would be accepted, too, but tree fanciers shouldn’t expect an equally as smitten response from a city employee posing as a London planetree.
Hazardous conditions, wayward kitties and other more pressing issues would likely continue to be handled through calls through 311 or 911.
The actual email address for each tree would be posted on a placard on or near the tree itself.
While assigning trees with email addresses may seem like one of those whacky, only-in-New York schemes — like transforming garbage cans into public Wi-Fi hotspots and launching rat infestation tracking tools, for example — it’s actually been done before … in Melbourne, Australia.
As Starre wrote this summer, Melbourne's tree email initiative ultimately resulted in less downed-branch-type reportages from eagle-eyed residents and more in straight-out lovey-dovey gushing. Melbourne’s trees collectively received thousands upon thousands of emails, some from folks who have never even set foot in the Australian city. The emails ranged from short “thanks for all you do” notes to long, flowery missives. It wasn’t quite what Melbourne officials were expecting but a lovely outpouring of tree appreciation nonetheless.
New Yorkers, who enjoy nothing more than complaining and fretting over potential public safety hazards, don’t immediately strike me as tree love letter-writing types. And I can say this because as I am one. And I’m not entirely sure that most parks department staffers would be open to personally responding to tree fan mail. But maybe I’m wrong.
Whatever the case, one famous — and non-indigenous — New York City tree with a propensity for tweeting recently arrived in the Big Apple for the holiday season: the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. And he (or she?) will definitely respond via email to whatever you have to say.