Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Working With What You Love: Doris Toumarkine Discovers Trees New York

Doris Toumarkine walked into the ReServe offices earlier this year not knowing exactly what type of work she might do. But she came seeking work she would love, and that would motivate and challenge her. And she hoped for something outside her area of expertise.

She answered a few simple questions about her professional background in filmmaking and her interests. And in the course of conversation, Doris also mentioned her love of trees. Six months later, she is explaining this fascination to a ReServe staff member:

“I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, in a semi-detached house on a street that didn’t have any trees. So I always looked for apartments on tree-lined streets. Now I take care of my mother’s house on Long Island, and it reminds me of the importance of trees.”

Trees are at the heart of Doris’ new work as a ReServist. ReServe introduced her to a nonprofit organization called Trees New York. In a conversation at their downtown Manhattan offices, Executive Director Susan Gooberman explains their mission.

“We’ve been around since the mid-70’s,” Susan says, “during the Carter Administration. There was a consortium of different greening groups that got together and realized that street trees had just not been addressed, and there was no money in the City budget for maintenance.” That consortium, she explains, “morphed” into Trees NY.

Trees New York needed volunteers “to take care of neighborhood street trees,” she says, “and so the Citizen Pruner course was born.” It has since grown to become their signature program. “We’ve been giving the course—I think it’s been 32 years now! We have over 10,000 people who’ve gone through the course, and that’s just the adult class. The program for high school students--the Young Citizen Pruner Program—has licensed thousands of kids as well.”

On October 9th, 2007, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg planted the first of a proposed one million new NYC street trees in a special ceremony in the Bronx.

“New York City has always been a place of big dreams and big ideas – and our Administration has never been afraid to embrace them,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Over the next decade . . . we are going to plant an unprecedented one million new trees across the City. Million Trees NYC is a key part in [our] effort to make a greener, greater city. This is an ambitious goal and to achieve it we’re going to need the help of the entire City; I’m encouraging all New Yorkers to get involved.”

Susan explains the significance of the Mayor’s initiative for Trees New York: “Because of the mayor’s initiative—planting a million trees—the word is out! And a lot of people are getting very involved.”

Putting a million new trees in the ground is just the first step in the making of a “greener, greater New York.” There’s a lot involved in caring for young trees, as Doris is quick to point out. “Only certain species of plants and trees will grow in the City. When you plant a tree, you plant a small tree usually. It would be a much greater undertaking to plant a mature tree.”

Susan explains that younger trees are pruned by volunteers only. The Parks Department doesn’t take responsibility for the care of a tree until it has grown to six inches in diameter. And as far as pruning is concerned, she says, “A cut made to a tree is with a tree for life.” Proper training for volunteer pruners is therefore essential.

As Doris says, “There’s so much to learn! I would love for this work to be an even more full time job than it is right now.”

And so the work Doris found as a ReServist has brought her love of trees into the center of her life. She’s begun a little careful pruning at her mother’s house on Long Island. Never shy in the pursuit of what she loves, she’ll be starting the Citizen Pruner course next Fall.

For more information on the Citizen Pruner course or any of Trees New York’s other programs, please call 212-227-1887 or visit http://www.treesny.com/

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