Partnering For A Greener Forest Hills & Rego Park

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Parks Department To Expand Tree Canopy NYRP Launches Free Tree Giveaway Season

New Sterling Silver Lindens planted at Russell Sage Playground, 2024 photo by Michael Perlman

The “forest” in Forest Hills and the “park” in Rego Park is closer towards being restored and expanded, as the Parks Department unveiled plans to increase the quantity and diversity of street trees over the course of the spring and fall planting seasons. Additionally, with New York Restoration Project’s citywide tree giveaway events underway through May 12, the public can enjoy a special opportunity to take home a free tree and plant it on private property within the five boroughs.   

“We are proud to be expanding the urban forest in Rego Park and Forest Hills, with over 300 (city) trees planned for planting across these two neighborhoods in 2024,” said Parks Department press officer Chris Clark. “Our goal at NYC Parks is to plant as many trees as possible to maintain and expand a resilient, healthy tree canopy for the benefit of all New Yorkers.” 

As residents shop, dine, and walk to their home, if they are fortunate, they will spot contractors creating new tree pits, expanding existing tree pits, and delivering and planting street trees. “NYC Parks plans to plant new street trees in a variety of locations in Rego Park and Forest Hills this spring,” said Clark. Rego Park sites include 62nd Road, 63rd Drive, 64th Avenue, 98th Street, Alderton Street, Austin Street, Queens Boulevard (near Junction Boulevard, 64th Avenue, 64th Road), Saunders Street, and Wetherole Street. In Forest Hills, plans include 66th Road, Yellowstone Boulevard, Austin Street, Juno Street, Loubet Street, Saunders Street, and Wetherole Street. Fall 2024 planting projections will be available in the late summer.

In recent years, the most commonly planted species in Forest Hills are Sweetgum, Dawn Redwood, American Linden, Silver Linden, and Zelkova. As for Rego Park, it also holds a spot for Zelkova, in addition to Snowbell, Flowering Cherry, and Gingko. 

Between 2021 and 2023 in Forest Hills, 177 street trees were planted, and this spring, 163 trees are planned, in addition to 91 trees in the fall. In Rego Park, 44 street trees were planted between 2021 and 2023. This spring, residents can anticipate 116 street trees, along with 15 trees slated for the fall. Future planting projections are pending utility inspection. 

New tree to be planted on Austin St in an expanded tree pit, 2024 photo by Michael Perlman

Trees complement architecture and contribute to a picturesque setting with enhanced property values, grant a home to wildlife, mark a community’s history, reduce stormwater runoff, filter and cool the air, offer shade, conserve energy. Personal relationships are initiated, as every tree will plant roots to stories that unfold over generations and bond community residents, and become the basis of educational opportunities, literature, and artwork. Some trees can be landmarked or feel like one. “Great neighborhood have Great Trees,” according to the Parks Department, which is accepting nominations for great trees:

Making plans to plant trees is always in season, but planting them in the spring and fall benefits a tree’s health. A resident does not need to be a homeowner to play a role in the planting and maintenance of city trees along the curb or in parks. Success stories begin as residents make note of empty tree pits, dead trees, stumps, and request pruning and planting street trees and new tree pits in place of cement. It can take minutes to call 311 or complete a NYC Parks website form to file a request by including an address or intersection: A service request number will be provided for periodic updates, and requests can be shared in Facebook groups to inspire other volunteers.  

Communities united through events such as the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance Forest Hills Tree Giveaway via New York Restoration Project (NYRP), which was coordinated by this columnist/community partner and held in MacDonald Park from 2011 to 2015. In some cases, residents coordinated tree planting ceremonies thereafter. 

NYRP was founded by Bette Midler in 1995, with an aim of partnering with residents to revitalize gardens, restore parks, plant trees, and promote urban agriculture. Tree giveaways are being held citywide each weekend through May 12, and a major partner, besides community-based organizations, is the Parks Department. To register, visit

“New York Restoration Project is thrilled to reach our 75,000th free tree milestone this season,” said NYRP Executive Director Lynn Bodnar Kelly. “This beloved program continues to spread the undeniable benefits of our urban tree canopy to the neighborhoods that need them most. Our city must get more trees in the ground if we want to truly increase New York’s environmental resilience.” Afterall, the city’s goal is to achieve a thirty percent tree canopy coverage. 

Tree species can be reserved and vary among events. This year’s species include Alleghany ServiceberryAmerican HazelnutAmerican PersimmonAmerican PlumBald CypressBasswoodBeach PlumBlack CherryBlack GumEastern RedbudElderberryFlowering DogwoodFragrant SumacGray BirchHackberryHornbeamNorthern BayberryNorthern Red OakPagoda DogwoodPussy WillowRed MapleSilver MapleSmooth AlderSweetbay MagnoliaSweetgumSycamoreTulip PoplarWashington HawthornWhite Fringe Tree, and Witchhazel.

Tree pit markings for upcoming 66th Rd tree planting, in the the face of a momumental pillar Oak, 2024 photo by Michael Perlman

The tree planting process, tree guards, and accompanying sidewalk repairs can be accelerated through a public-private partnership known as Tree Time. Residents have the option of funding a project after visiting or emailing or calling 718-361-8101.

The public can also volunteer with the NYC Parks Stewardship program by visiting  and play a role in planting and pruning street trees, forest and wetland restoration, harvesting and propagating native seed, and monitoring local wildlife. 

From 2015 to 2016, the city’s third tree census was underway, where 2,241 volunteers mapped 666,134 street trees on 131,488 blocks, and the results can be analyzed: On a related note, all city trees along with real-time stats, such as those that were serviced, can be found by exploring the NYC Street Tree Map: Unique facts include the top three park trees as London Plane, Pin Oak, and Honey Locust.   

 As of June 3, 2023, the Parks Department announced the highest quantity of trees planted over a six-year period, with greater than 13,154 street and park trees planted citywide, and a total of 14,900 that was anticipated by the end of the month. The full speed ahead rate was attributed to appointing additional M/WBE contractors. Also pinpointed was their goal to plant trees in heat vulnerable neighborhoods, with over 5,700 planted in fiscal year 2023. For Queens, that includes Elmhurst, Hunters Point, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Laurelton, South Ozone Park, St. Albans, Flushing, and Woodside. As a result of an additional $136 million allocated by the mayoral administration for the program, planting trees in every sustainable spot in HVI-4 and HVI-5 neighborhoods by 2026 is a Parks Department goal. 

With a multitude of opportunities, everyone can feel as if they have a green thumb, and residents are sharing their passion in various ways. Nicole Vargas is the outreach coordinator for the Jamaica YMCA Beacon Program at P.S. 175. “We are 25 staff members, so for NYRP’s tree giveaways, we each reserved a tree to pick up from a location closest to each member.” Beacon Programs citywide serve as a hub for youth, adults, and families to access integrated and comprehensive services. 

Vargas explained, “The Beacon Program reached out to Michael Perlman, Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, with hopes to form a connection within our neighborhood, as we work on our commitment to community engagement, sustainability, and hands-on learning with our youth. Neighborhood beautification can lead to greater interaction among neighbors from diverse backgrounds, more neighborhood life, and a sense of community. We envision the best for our participants, as we will give our support to foster neighborhood beautification. Our program director, Carlotta Cuenca, and our program coordinator, Richard Williams, have continuously pushed boundaries, as we drive our participants to reach their full potential.”

Susan Varo, a talented visual artist who has a history in Queens, proudly supports planting more trees and inspires her audience with her tree paintings. “Trees are such majestic, beautiful, and bountiful plants, providing homes to wildlife nestled within their hollow and branches. Perhaps it’s the Law of Nature or my love of nature that inspires my creativity, gliding my paintbrush to focus on their curves, bends, texture, and their blooming botanicals,” she said. 

From monumental Oaks and Maples and smaller graceful Magnolias, as well as everything in between, Varo regards trees as an essential aspect of our livelihood. She explained, “Trees shape our environment, providing food and removing carbon dioxide, and their roots reduce soil erosion. They are flowering and fragrant, towering above and offering sheer delight of shaded areas, and merit a moment of pause and pure artistic inspiration. These ever-present plants should remain on our landscape, gracing us with their protection and lush foliage.” 

Trees delivered on a flatbed to 64th Road near Queens Blvd, 2015 photo by Michael Perlman

Earth Day is on April 22, followed by National Love A Tree Day on May 16. “We can create posts on the importance of preserving forests and parks, and ask people for photos of themselves hugging trees. There’s always a social media hashtag campaign,” said Anna Demetrashvili of Rego Park. In her home country of Georgia, she planted trees including fig, persimmon, apple, mulberry, and walnut, and now she is open to volunteering with fellow residents to plant trees and create a community garden.

Demetrashvili embraces the importance of teaching children about trees early on. “There’s a nice saying that every father’s responsibility is to teach their kid to swim and plant a tree. I was a single mother of two boys and a father figure, so I taught them to swim and we planted trees. They also loved climbing trees, and now we are all tree huggers.” 

A must-have book is “Grow Your Own Tree Hugger – 101 Activities to Teach Your Child How to Live Green” by Wendy Rosenoff. “I use this book with kids in my family to instill the love of nature in them,” she said. 

Traditions blossom among the generations for Lucy Brown Karwoski, who was raised in Forest Hills. She takes pride in being a tree hugger and values how they are nature’s sponges. “Forest Hills and Rego Park are surrounded by heavily trafficked roads and highways, which fill the air with carbon dioxide emissions, but our trees help detoxify the air we breathe,” she said. 

Karwoski was born in 1945 and lived in a house on 65th Avenue between 108th and 110th Streets. “My parents chose that block since it was a tree-lined entrance to a parking lot for the 1939 – 1940 World’s Fair,” she reminisced. In more recent decades, she and her husband purchased a house in Huntington on a tree-lined court, which backs onto a wooded, undeveloped lot. She also took her two daughters, Lauren (born 1978) and Elise (born 1983), to see where she was raised. “My two daughters were inspired by my tree-covered neighborhood, and now each own a home surrounded by trees and nature, which is where they are raising their children,” she continued.

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