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Council to pass green plans

Commissioner Amanda Burden, who heads the Department of City Planning (DCP), has called on the City Council to pass two recent proposals into law, “in time for spring planting season.”
The proposals, which were approved on Monday, March 25, would be a sweeping commitment to meet Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “PlaNYC 2030” environmental plans.
One proposal mandates a street tree every 25 feet citywide in all but some industrial zones. Meeting this mandate would require planting an additional 10,000 trees a year and fulfill Bloomberg’s “million tree initiative.”
The other proposal approved by the DCP would prohibit the “excessive paving of front yards,” by requiring a minimum percentage of all front yards in lower density neighborhoods to be landscaped.
This is a significant measure in that lower density districts comprise roughly 70 percent of the city’s residentially zoned districts.
These new rules also encourage rear yard garages in order to maximize planting area in the front yard.
“Green spaces do a much better job of delaying, detaining and infiltrating storm water run off than pavement,” Burden said. She explained that landscaped, open ground absorbs between half to two thirds of the storm water. In contrast, paved surfaces shed between 90 and 100 percent of rainfall, she said.
The additional runoff from paved, privately owned front yards contributes to overloading of the sewer system, which sometimes results in untreated sewage finding its way into water bodies throughout the city, according to environmental studies.
“Together with our new, already-adopted requirements for landscaping of commercial parking lots, this ‘trifecta of green initiative’ will cool the air, absorb greenhouse gas emissions, relieve storm sewers, and improve our quality of life,” Burden said.
Community boards throughout the city reviewed the proposals and some home owners expressed resentment at the city telling them what they can do with their own property.
The street tree proposal also raised hackles from drivers in neighborhoods where on-street parking is at a premium, because trees can block drivers from exiting their vehicles.
The 25-foot planting rule would be mandatory for new residential construction and “major expansion,” defined as a 20 percent enlargement.
In addition, the proposal calls for planting strips between sidewalks and curbs. The space including the sidewalk to the curb is sometimes called “the Governor’s strip,” because even though it is usually private property (except in some cases where it is part of a mapped street) it is under the legal control of the city.
“The changes will improve the quality and quantity of open spaces in these areas - thereby improving the environment of the city we will leave our children,” Burden said.

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