Standing in Upper Falls, a neighborhood with some of lowest tree cover in Rochester, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer on Monday launched a major new push to help Rochester become one of the first in the nation to tap the historic funding provided for USDA’s Urban and Community Forestry Program to plant over 6,000 new trees across the city.
Schumer explained that the lack of green space and unbalanced tree coverage across neighborhoods in Rochester has worsened systemic economic and health inequalities, and said this was especially a concern in the face of rising global temperatures, but now thanks to the historic increases he secured in the Inflation Reduction Act, Rochester has a unique opportunity to finally secure the funding it has needed to get to the root cause of this problem and greatly expand the city’s tree coverage.
“For too long Rochester neighborhoods have been left out of the shade, stuck in concrete deserts with barely a tree or greenspace in sight. No matter where you live, people deserve to breathe clean air and have access to the health and economic benefits that come with living in a lush tree-rich community,” said Senator Schumer. “Trees are beautiful; they help air quality; they boost quality of life; and they provide vital shade in sweltering hot cities. That is why I am proud to support Rochester’s ambitious plan to plant 6,000 new trees by 2025 and why I am digging in to deliver the federal funding to help this vision for a greener, healthier, and more equitable Rochester finally take root and blossom.”
“Rochester has a long love affair with its urban forest,” said Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans. “Since establishing our Parks Commission in 1894, we’ve understood how important trees are to a healthy and vibrant infrastructure. They provide a myriad of environmental, social, economic and aesthetic benefits. Our ambitious Tree Expansion and Beautification Program is designed to eliminate discrepancies in the current locations of street trees across Rochester so that everyone can share in the benefits that trees offer. I’d like to thank Senator Schumer for urging funding for our plan to plant 6000 new trees by 2025.”
Schumer explained that in Rochester, the difference in canopy cover ― the amount of an area covered by trees, as seen from above ― differs by more than 30 percent from the most tree-covered neighborhood to the least. The senator said that when a neighborhood lacks trees it can lead to a variety of problems, from increased air pollution, urban heat islands, lower mental health, along with other poor health outcomes, which are on top of negative economic impacts like decreased property values.
For years, Rochester has struggled to add trees and greenspace, in large part due to a lack of funding. In the last four-year period, from 2018 to 2021, the city planted 2,335 new trees but removed 2,771, a net loss of 436. Schumer said that the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest investment in fighting climate change, which he led to passage as majority leader has finally created the robust funding needed to tackle this problem in Rochester and other cities across New York.