Testimony

The Real Estate Board of New York to The Committee on Parks and Recreation of the New York City Council Regarding the FY 2023 Preliminary Budget

Ryan Monell

Vice President, Government Affairs

March 21, 2022

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. REBNY thanks the New York City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation for the opportunity to provide testimony regarding the FY2023 preliminary budget, particularly regarding New York City’s urban forest.

REBNY is proud to be part of a group of organizations that crafted the NYC Urban Forest Agenda, a strategic plan to protect, maintain, expand, and promote the urban forest, and build a more resilient and equitable New York City. REBNY believes all New Yorkers have a responsibility to support the NYC urban forest, which plays an important role in promoting our shared goals of advancing public health, protecting our environment, and improving New York City’s streets, parks, and private and public spaces.

As the real estate industry aims to lead our city in fostering in a new era of sustainability, the built world too will ultimately benefit from a stronger urban forest. Along with the general benefits that trees bring to our streetscapes, the cooling principles of significant tree cover and the ability for the urban forest to remove carbon from the atmosphere will ultimately lead to a healthier city. In addition, the effects of climate change can begin to be offset by a healthy urban ecosystem, leading to a more resilient environment in extreme weather scenarios, all to the benefit of our built world. This of course is dependent on our prioritization of the existing and future urban canopy and investment therein.

One of the main initiatives of the NYC Urban Forest Agenda is the establishment of a citywide goal of 30% tree canopy cover by 2035, which amounts to adding more than 15,000 acres of additional canopy. For this goal to be successful, the city must first prioritize the management and maintenance of our existing urban canopy, which in many ways is more crucial than new tree planting and more cost efficient. For example, one large healthy tree cools the surrounding area more than three small trees that are not well cared for. New York City needs to invest in protecting the more than 7 million trees we have today. For FY23, increasing and equitably distributing funding for not only planting but also maintenance of the urban forest should be a key priority.

The NYC Urban Forest Agenda seeks to ensure full funding for the urban forest in the City’s FY23 budget, following years of chronic underfunding for tree planting and maintenance. Unfortunately, in FY21 City funding for tree care in NYC was drastically cut by more than $22 million, a 90% cut. REBNY supports restoring this funding for FY23 to begin to ensure long-term survival of the city’s trees and their associated ecological and social benefits. We commend Chair Krishnan’s call to prioritize our parks in FY23 and hope that the Council will consider prioritizing the needs of our urban forest most specifically.