JetBlue greens torn up park

Dennis Rosario, an environmental educator with the New York Restoration Project, displays Boogie Woogie, his beloved box turtle, to a group of youngsters during an environmental event at MacDonald Park in Forest Hills. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

Forest Hills and Rego Park lived up to their names Saturday afternoon by participating in droves in a massive greening event in MacDonald Park in Forest Hills.

The effort, which came about through a partnership between a number of entities, including the MillionTreesNYC initiative, the New York Restoration Project and JetBlue, was a comprehensive day of environmental awareness and hard work.

The centerpiece of the day’s activities was a massive tree-planting effort aimed at replacing trees that were torn out of MacDonald Park and the surrounding neighborhoods during the Sept. 16 tornadoes.

About 850 volunteers converged on the bustling area near the park Saturday morning to plant trees in an attempt to undo some of the tornadoes’ effects, increase the city’s tree canopy and help the environment, according to Jimmy Owens, the nonprofit New York Restoration Project’s corporate development manager.

“Last September when the tornadoes came through Queens, they ripped out trees that have been here 60 years. MacDonald Park was devastated,” he said. “Today volunteers and JetBlue employees donated their time to replace 80 of those trees. Overall in the neighborhood we planted nearly 200 trees.”

The event also featured giveaways, music, educational presentations, games and an animal show for children.

The animal show, hosted by Dennis Rosario, an environmental educator for the New York Restoration Project, was a chance for city youths to meet Boogie Woogie the box turtle, Lechona the milk snake, The Governah the bearded lizard and a family of hissing cockroaches.

Forest Hills 12-year-old Hayley Bain was not shy at all during the petting period of the presentation after Rosario told her box turtles can live more than 150 years and that milk snakes can dislocate and swivel their jaws in order to swallow small rodents. She allowed Lechona to wrap herself around her hands and arms as if they had been friends for years.

“I liked holding the snake. It was constricting around me. It was cool,” she said. “I planted a tree earlier. It was a lot of fun. It’ll take in the carbon dioxide from the cars and let out oxygen.”

The MillionTreesNYC initiative was started in October 2007 with the goal of planting a million trees in the city in a decade. The event Saturday was one of many throughout the five boroughs aimed at reaching that goal, Owens said. So far, about 436,000 trees have been planted through the program, so Owens said it is 20 percent ahead of schedule.

Anyone who has an idea about a place where a tree or trees could be planted anywhere in the city should call 311 or visit milliontreesnyc.org to leave suggestions.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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