(Image Credit: Greening Greenpoint Facebook | Kathleen is in the brown shirt & Sophie is in the floral print)
As you walk around Greenpoint, you may notice new trees and flower bulbs along the sidewalks. While they provide something pretty to look at during your stroll, the trees and flowers actually help the environment by reducing temperatures and mitigating pollution. You can thank Sophie Plitt, who works as the Greenpoint Coordinator for the New York Tree Trust, and Kathleen Martin,Stewardship Outreach Coordinator for the New York Tree Trust, as these two women lead the efforts in the creation of Greenpoint’s “urban forest” through their Greening Greenpoint organization.
Greening Greenpoint is a three-year project funded by the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, which was created to plant hundreds of new trees and elevate the level of care for existing trees in the neighborhood. The Greening Greenpoint organization is managed by the New York Tree Trust, a program of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the City Parks Foundation that was established in 1994 to protect, preserve, and enhance New York City’s street, park and forest trees.
“Engaging the community and fostering the connection between ‘people-meeting-people’ is something we want to do,” Sophie said. “The goal is to have a network of people who know each other and who will continue the work of planting new trees and taking care of existing ones.”
The concept of urban foresting isn’t as widely known as other green initiatives, so it’s interesting to learn how these two decided to launch this type of organization. When you learn more about their background, everything begins to make more sense.
Sophie obtained her undergraduate degree at The New School University, majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Urban Ecosystems. Kathleen’s experience isn’t that much different. She graduated from State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry with a major in Environmental Studies. Their education provided a great foundation for them to pursue career paths focusing on the environment. This environmental initiative is truly revolutionary. Greening Greenpoint aims to ensure a greener, healthier future for the entire Greenpoint area.
Just to list a few of their planned goals, Sophie and Kathleen will lead the planting of over 500 new trees in the parks, streets, and public spaces of Greenpoint. Furthermore, they will work to install over 400 tree guards, enlarge approximately 675 existing tree beds, give away hundreds more free trees to homeowners to plant in their yards, and improve tree beds with the planting of bulbs, flowers, and ground cover. This sounds like an incredibly daunting series of tasks, but the hard work will be completely worth it.
All in all, Sophie and Kathleen anticipate that the Greening Greenpoint project will eliminate about 13,000 pounds of local air pollution and treat 787,500 gallons of stormwater runoff per year!
As they explained, creating a network for “people-meeting-people” will also be key. While the planting process takes place over the next few years, Sophie and Kathleen aim to train and equip tree stewards from the Greenpoint school system and local community in the ways of caring for and pruning trees. They hope that, when the planting portion of Greening Greenpoint is over, a lasting culture of tree advocacy and stewardship will be firmly in place in the Greenpoint community.
As a reference, The New York Tree Trust hired Kathleen and Sophie to manage the Greening Greenpoint program in the summer of 2015 and these women have been leading the front on these initiatives ever since. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is a partner in this project, providing a 50/50 match to the GCEF funding, to ensure that the missions are accomplished.
For Sophie and Kathleen, there’s a long, challenging road ahead as they attempt to massively improve the environmental health of the Greenpoint area through the Greening Greenpoint project. Yet, if there were ever two people to lead the charge, it’s Sophie and Kathleen To request more information about their organization, just click here.