While New York City struggles with a housing and migrant crisis, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) secured $20 million in federal funding for New York City to plant trees, The New York Post reported.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also secured another $14 million to plant trees in other cities across New York State.
The funding came from the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry program, which received $1.5 billion in funds from the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022.
The program is part of the Biden Administration’s Justice40 initiative to promote environmental justice, and is meant to provide tree canopies and environmental justice to disadvantaged communities, according to its website.
In one press release, Schumer announced $11 million in funding for Syracuse, Auburn, and Central New York, while in another, he announced $3 million for Rochester. The press releases state the funding will be used to, “plant thousands of new trees and expand youth and job training programs helping make the community greener.”
Equity was a major focus of these investments, with Schumer saying in the press release that these locations represented some of New York’s “most underserved neighborhoods,” and with Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh stating, “With these funds, Syracuse will be better able carry out our goal to grow the canopy more equitably…”
Similarly, NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said, “Thanks to this investment, our city will soon have more trees, expanded and more resilient forests, and new green jobs, helping us to further our commitment to expanding and preserving our natural environment.”
While there’s nothing wrong with planting trees, it’s difficult to imagine how this task requires $34 million. The total number of trees to be planted is unclear, though Auburn will plant 1,200, Central New York is planning for 10,000, and Rochester is anticipating 6,000.
The scale of the program is also arbitrary, and these communities could no doubt build their canopies and increase tree coverage with half of the number of trees and half the funding.
Programs like these, which borrow millions of dollars to spend on environmental justice programs, are partially why our country has dug itself into $33 trillion of debt, and their scale ought to be carefully considered.
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