New trees grow on Smith Street

Smith Street in Brooklyn is a bit of a unique street for New York City.  This is because it is narrow and there is a 4 lane subway system below it.  For ‘ever’ residents have assumed that you weren’t allowed to plant trees along the sidewalks because of potential interference with the subway tunnel.  With a bit of inquiry on my part, and a bit of persistence, I kept asking Betty Stoltz of the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation why there weren’t any trees along Smith Street, and how if there were trees how much better the neighborhood would be perceived.  Every summer I was also reminded of just how hot Smith Street became without any shade that trees offer us.

Just planted tree on Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY


Fundamentally Smith Street is architecturally brutal, concrete sidewalks, asphalt paving and brick facades are only interrupted on the south end by Carroll Park and the trees that are able to peek beyond the building line.  About 14 years ago, around 1996-97 Smith Street was rebuilt, meaning new sidewalks were put in, new curbs and new light poles.  The lights themselves played an important role in Smith’s revitalization but without the clean curbs and sidewalks it’s rejuvenation would of been in doubt.  Still, the one element missing was greenery.  Now we have the beginnings of life.  With some trees being added, the message is clear to land owners that trees are not only allowed but they are welcome.  My hope is that more will request that the city place a tree in front of their building.  Considering the trees are free, including the planting of them, it’s an easy request to make.

So my little role?  The persistence in convincing Betty that it should be done, that it will improve business, that it will be cooler in summer, that it will make the whole area more pleasant and inviting to visitors… and Betty did the rest.

New trees as of July 2011.

The future will still  hold all the architectural charm of Smith Street, but will also have a new warm vista about it as one looks down Smith.  With the new trees it will be easier to walk slower and take in all there is to see.  It is for me very rewarding to see the birth of hope along what was once considered by some to be an area that one shouldn’t venture around.  Smith Street has seen it all, and now it looks like it’s future is brighter than ever before.

What Smith Street should look like by 2025 or 2030

I’ve always hoped that everyone of us can make a difference by simply making suggestions and helping.  With experience of life under my belt I know this to be true as I have several stories were my suggestions have made a difference.  What I believe in is if you have a suggestion of something that makes life better, then it should be done.  The rest is up to finding the right people to make it happen.

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