I spent today in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx working alongside a bunch of really great young Rock Corps volunteers to help the excellent Sustainable South Bronx (SSB) organization clean out “tree pits.” Tree pits are the square holes cut in sidewalks for trees to grow from. Cleaning them out helps saplings planted by SSB in the last few years to survive.
I’d like to write a long post about it—telling you about all the stories and people I met—but having ridden my bike an hour there and an hour back and having spent the day pulling weeds and garbage and dog poo out of the pits, I’m too beat. I'm 43, you know.
What I will do is give you this little bit of background. Hunts Point is home to the world’s largest produce market, from which most New York City grocery stores get their veggies. The result is that huge numbers of trucks drive through the neighborhood every day, which is one of the reasons the Bronx is an asthma hot spot. I could literally taste the grime in the air.
Planting trees and then maintaining them to make sure they live to maturity helps because:
- Airborne diesel particulates stick to leaves, the trees literally help pull the pollution out of the air.
- By absorbing storm water, trees help prevent overflow from the combined sewage and storm water system, which helps clean up the Bronx River.
- Canopy cover from the trees helps reduce the “heat island” effect, thereby keeping the air cooler, reducing the need for air conditioners, and helping reduce the production of ozone that exacerbates breathing problems.
That’s it. My legs hurt. I’m tired. I have to go to bed.