Remembering 9/11. Governors Island. The Beetles.

by Anne Schwartz, Mar 1, 2002


The project in Queens is but one of numerous green remembrances of 9/ll that have sprouted as if from seeds spread in the wind. In addition to the parks and groves being planned at the sites of the terrorist attacks, living memorials in parks, gardens, and streets are taking root in New York and all over the country. Trees and flowers are age-old symbols of the resilience of life. People searching for a way to cope with the pain and loss have found a sense of renewal and hope in growing things, even a single tree. There is solace to be found in the labor of gardening, as well as in the process of working together with neighbors to make the city a better place to live.

The impulse can be seen in the daffodils that have been blooming at 600 parks and other sites around the city. Ten thousand volunteers planted more than a million bulbs, donated by bulb companies and Dutch cities, in a project organized by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation with help from 583 groups. Similar motivations led residents of a block in Brooklyn to raise money to plant two trees in Prospect Park to remember a neighbor who died in the World Trade Center attacks.

To encourage these efforts, the U.S. Forest Service has established a Living Memorial Project to assist local governments and groups in planning public groves in New York City, the Pentagon area, and in southwest Pennsylvania. The Forest Service is providing technical assistance and matching grants (the deadline for grant proposals is May 21.) The agency will also compile an inventory of memorial plantings around the country and feature them on the project's web site. New York City plantings will be mapped on OASIS, an interactive web-based map of New York City open space resources.

Some of the larger New York City memorials that have already been planted or are in the works:

In December, Trees New York planted 18 street trees in lower Manhattan in honor of specific individuals who lost their lives at the World Trade Center. The urban forestry organization, which promotes the planting and maintenance of street and park trees and trains citizen pruners, also has a Living Legacy Program for those who want to sponsor the planting of a commemorative tree.

At Battery Park, where many people fled after the attack and which was used as a staging area for the recovery effort, the Battery Conservancy dedicated a 10,000-square-foot flower border as the "Garden of Remembrance" for September 11. The border runs along the waterfront near the ferry for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Students from nearby high schools who escaped through the park on September 11 returned to plant bulbs in the garden, and participated in the dedication on December 11. "We wanted many people who had a traumatic experience in the park that day to build new positive memories," said Warrie Price, the park administrator and Conservancy president. The Conservancy recently received $1 million from Verizon toward its goal of a $4 million endowment to support the planting and maintenance of year-round flower and plant displays at the garden.

The National Tree Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based group that works with local volunteer organizations to plant and maintain trees in urban and rural areas and along highways, planted a dozen ash trees in a Memorial Treeway at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, where 11 of those who died on September 11 were buried. The trust plants what it calls "champion trees," which are clones of the largest and healthiest native trees in the country.

American Forests, a 125-year-old national conservation group that focuses on environmental restoration, urban forestry and education, has teamed up with Eddie Bauer to plant at least one tree for every victim of the September 11 attacks. The group will plant saplings at sites in New York, Washington, D.C., Arlington, Virginia, and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, as well as in other communities in the United States. About half of the 3,000 saplings destined for New York City will be planted in the Hudson River Park.


There was no mention of Governor Pataki's earlier plan, which was widely supported, to create a self-supporting "grand civic space" on the island, including a convention center, museum, hotel, and public park. President Clinton declared the two historic forts on the island a National Monument in his final days in office.

Civic groups and members of Congress who have been working for years to turn Governors Island into a new public space for the city reacted positively to the idea of moving CUNY programs to the island, part of which has brick buildings, lawns, and trees that feel like a college campus already. But they didn't want the idea of public uses, including open space and ballfields, forgotten. "What about the plan we all signed on to?" said Robert Pirani, environmental director of the Regional Plan Association. He noted that many elements of the previous plan were totally compatible with CUNY, including parkland, a tourist attraction like a museum to complement the historic forts, and revenue-generating uses like a conference or special events center. "One of the things that would make it a success is to have a variety of things out there."

Representative Carolyn Maloney, who, along with Rep. Jerrold Nader, sponsored legislation to return the island to New York for public use, cautioned that there needs to be a realistic way to cover the estimated $15 to $35 million cost of maintaining the island, as well as the cost of converting the buildings to educational use. In an editorial in the Daily News, she argued for federal assistance as well as the inclusion of enough revenue-producing activities to make the island self-sufficient, in addition to the green space that the original plan included.

Financing, as well as legal and legislative issues, would have to be addressed before the plan could go through. But even before the details are worked out, the National Monument area could be opened for visitors, according to Robert Pirani. "The Parks Service could be running tours this summer," he said, noting that number of people going to Ground Zero had increased visitation to the other historic attractions in New York harbor, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

On June 2, a flotilla of a thousand boats will converge near the island to advance the cause of opening the island to the public.


Since the Asian long-horned beetle was first discovered in Greenpoint in 1996, it has become a serious threat to the city's five million park, street, and backyard trees. The tree-killing insect chews holes into the bark of trees to lay its eggs, which hatch into white, worm-like larvae. The larvae burrow into the tree to live and feed during the colder months, emerging as adults in the spring to mate and start the process all over again. The only way to stop the beetle from spreading is to cut down and destroy every infested tree.

The beetle is about one to one-and-a-half inches long, with a shiny black body, white spots and very long, black-and-white striped antennae. Signs of the beetle are dime or pencil-sized holes, usually in the upper trunk or branches, and piles of frass -- sawdust and insect waste -- where branches meet the trunk or at the base of the tree.