Schenectady, like many cities its age, has an infrastructure problem. And it’s not just water and sewer lines and roads, but trees, as an April 15 Gazette story made clear.
Hundreds of silver maple trees planted during the first half of the 20th century have reached the end of their normal lifespan and are dying, and the city hasn’t been devoting any appreciable resources to replant. This year — one year after budgeting no money at all — it budgeted just $7,500 to the all-volunteer organization dedicated to the task. But Re-Tree Schenectady, which leverages such contributions to obtain public and private grants, needs more money and more help.
Trees are important to a city for any number of reasons. Aesthetically, they’ve got it all over asphalt. But attractive, tree-lined streets also improve air quality, as the trees absorb carbon dioxide and give off life-sustaining oxygen. Their canopies also provide shade, which reduces the need for air-conditioning; that reduces greenhouse gas emissions in another way.
A 2007 study by New York City and the University of California at Davis estimated that every dollar spent planting trees returns $5.60 worth of benefits — factoring in a tree’s impact on property values, its ability to absorb greenhouse gases and reduce energy consumption.
Earth Day (Tuesday) presents a perfect opportunity for the city to reconsider its approach to tree planting. The City Council can do its part by providing at least another $7,500 for Re-Tree through its Community Development Block Grant budget, scheduled for discussion tonight. Maybe Metroplex, which provides facade grant money throughout the city, could be persuaded to pony up a few dollars for trees as well. They’re at least as vital to the landscape as fancy streetlights.