The Exchange Place Alliance recently debuted Jersey City’s first pedestrian plaza on the waterfront. Now, the organization is looking to add some green.
Under a project in collaboration with Jersey City Forrester and other city agencies announced this week, the Alliance says work is underway that will bring the number of trees at the revamped plaza to 97 — adding 59 new plantings under this initiative to the 38 that were installed as part of landscaping updates during the site’s redevelopment.
All the trees were grown in New Jersey at JK Matthews Nursey in Robbinsville. Funded by the Alliance, the cost is approximately $175,000, according to the organization.
“This is an initiative with sustainability at its core, helping to increase the resilience of our local ecosystem,” EPA Executive Director Elizabeth Cain said in a statement. “It also has the added benefits of beautification and the improvement of this community’s quality of life. What’s more we kept it local, as all of our vendors are based in New Jersey.”
According to the Alliance, tree species — including white oak, eastern redbud, linden, honey locust, sweetgum and gingko — were selected for the plantings due to their hardiness to a wide temperature range, the ability to withstand brackish waterfront spillover during storms, and to provide shade in the heavily paved area. The organization said tree pits were also expanded to allow more space for roots to grow, which has resulted in removing significant concrete and increasing permeability.
Jersey City is set to plant more than 350 trees by the end of 2023.
The progress follows a report from the Jersey City Times at the start of the year that drew attention to longstanding issues with adding — and maintaining — trees in the city, which, according to the publication, has gone through four municipal foresters in the past six years.
A 2015 report commissioned by the Jersey City Environmental Commission found that trees offer benefits of “shade, stormwater management, better air quality, reduced utility bills, enhanced safety, natural beauty, vibrant residential and business districts, and mental and physical health. But, as a living system, the city’s tree canopy needs good care, management, and replacement over time.”
At that time, the city was projected to lose at least 124 trees annually due to natural factors as well as “poor tree planting and care, such as planting trees in the wrong places, undersized tree planting wells, lack of management, and inadequate replacement planting.”
The Alliance said these new plantings represent the largest single location tree planting in the city this season and the largest private planting by a community group in the city.
According to the city’s municipal tree inventory, there are nearly 13,000 trees accounted for in Jersey City as of Nov. 7.
“Trees add immeasurable value, especially in urban communities, and these 97 tree plantings in Exchange Place are an important addition to our overall sustainability strategies for improved public health and resiliency citywide,” Mayor Steven Fulop commented.
In its 2021 Climate and Energy Action Plan, the city identified a high-priority goal of working to increase the number of total street trees by 20% by 2030. According to the report, from 2019-2020, the city began reversing its tree-loss trend, with more than twice as many trees installed as were removed.
“I’m trilled to have partnered with the Exchange Place Alliance on this tree planting initiative,” said Councilman James Solomon. “Together we’re planting over 100 trees in Ward E and Ward F. I am committed to repairing our urban canopy – more work to come!”
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Author: Jessica Perry