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$2 million to create green jobs and restore urban forests in New York City

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department of Agriculture has awarded a $2 million grant to create green jobs and restore urban forests in New York City. The grant will create up to 20 new jobs in horticulture and forestry over the next two years for graduates of the MillionTreesNYC training program. MillionTreesNYC is a public-private partnership between the Bloomberg Administration and New York Restoration Project (NYRP) that aims to plant one million new trees throughout the five boroughs by 2017. The Mayor and Secretary Vilsack were joined at today's announcement by US Representative Jose E. Serrano, First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, United States Forest Service Chief Abigail R. Kimball, and other elected officials.

"This funding will provide work and training to young adults from low income communities in New York City while restoring the City's urban ecosystems making it a healthier place to live," said Secretary Vilsack. "These young Americans will embark on careers in the growing field of urban natural resource management and restoration and help show others that green jobs programs can be a path out of poverty."

"This grant will put New Yorkers to work, help pump more money into our economy, and create jobs," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The MillionTreesNYC training program, which this grant will support, is part of PlaNYC, our vision of a greener, greater New York. And it ties into our Center for Economic Opportunity's efforts to reduce chronic poverty by getting more New Yorkers working and making sure that work pays."

The $2 million grant will create full-time jobs preserving or restoring parks and other green areas of New York City for graduates of the MillionTreesNYC training program. The training program, managed by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and New York Restoration Project, provides paid on-the-job forestry and horticulture training to unemployed young adults not enrolled in school or on a career path. Participants learn job skills through a training and certification program at New York Botanical Garden. In conjunction with other educational partners, the program prepares them for green jobs that involve tree planting, pruning and stewardship of urban ecosystems.

Through their full-time employment, MillionTreesNYC training program graduates will restore the natural environment of neighborhoods, parks, gardens, wetlands and forest areas in the five boroughs. Restoration work will focus on designated "Trees for Public Health" neighborhoods, areas that receive the highest priority for new trees because of lower than average tree canopy cover and higher than average asthma rates and other health problems. These neighborhoods include Hunts Point and Morrisania in the Bronx, East New York in Brooklyn, East Harlem in Manhattan, the Rockaways in Queens, and Stapleton on Staten Island.

Created as one of the more than 40 innovative programs of the Mayor's Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) aimed to reduce the number of New Yorkers living in poverty, the program recruits participants from New York City Housing Authority campuses, the Department of Youth and Community Development's CEO programs and from local community-based organizations. The training program, supported by private donations made to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, also aims to create stronger linkages between environmental health and community stability.

"The Center for Economic Opportunity has become a nationally recognized research and development laboratory for testing new anti-poverty strategies," said Executive Director Veronica M. White. "One of our key populations - that this program targets directly - are young adults who are at-risk because they are neither working nor in school, and our goal is to help them connect to GED programs, internships or jobs which will lead to a path of stability and self sufficiency."

This innovative restoration project will augment the economic stimulus principals set forth in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 through the creation of new jobs and improved green infrastructure. The project is funded jointly through the State and Private Forestry and Research and Development mission areas of the Forest Service and addresses the agency's mission that is characterized by the slogan, "caring for the land and serving people."

"The overarching purpose of our emphasis on green jobs is to get money moving through the economy again while investing in the future of great cities like New York," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Gail R. Kimbell. "Through these jobs people from all backgrounds can learn valuable skills, connect to the outdoors, and build the green infrastructure that they will benefit from and enjoy for generations

"Green jobs are good jobs that lead to long-term careers and a strong commitment to improving the environment," said Commissioner Benepe. "With the federal government's investment of $2 million in creating up to 20 new positions in New York City's environmental industry, the Parks Department, New York Restoration Project, and other MillionTreesNYC partners can hire well-trained green thumbs who can contribute to the important work of restoring New York City's ecosystems."

MillionTreesNYC is a 10-year initiative to plant and care for one million new trees throughout the City's five boroughs and a key aspect of PlaNYC. It will ultimately expand the City's urban forest by 20 percent, provide New Yorkers important health, economic and environmental benefits, and create a more sustainable urban environment. Since its launch in October 2007, public, private and non-profit organizations rallied almost 4,000 citizen volunteers to plant trees in what has become an unprecedented tree planting campaign and citywide environmental movement. MillionTreesNYC has exceeded our first year planting goal (originally set at 93,397 trees) by 17,714 trees and has already planted more than 174,000 trees towards our million-tree goal.

The Mayor allocated nearly $400 million to the Parks Department over a period of ten years to plant 600,000 trees by reforesting 2,000 acres of existing parkland and lining New York City streets with trees. The New York Restoration Project (NYRP) is planting nearly 100,000 trees on public housing developments, in collaboration with the Greening of NYCHA initiative, and on schoolyards and playgrounds, community gardens, cultural institutions and other publicly-accessible properties. Along with NYRP, a MillionTreesNYC Advisory committee of over 80 public and non-profit partners was established to enlist community organizations, businesses, residential and commercial developers and everyday New Yorkers to plant and maintain the remaining 300,000 trees.

To reach this ambitious goal, NYRP and the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City are raising corporate, foundation and individual contributions to support plantings. The Mayor's Fund is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization designed to aid City programs and support innovative public-private partnerships. Funding for the MillionTreesNYC Training Program has been generously provided by the Altman Foundation, David Rockefeller, the Ross Foundation and the Dodge Foundation. Lead sponsors of MillionTreesNYC include The Home Depot Foundation and Toyota and major donors include David Rockefeller and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

by S. C.
09 april 2009, World News > America

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