Valley Stream's West Merrick Road grows greener, cleaner, calmer with newly planted trees


Amid a season of new growth, trees — more than two dozen of them — were planted along the stretch of West Merrick Road between North Central Avenue and Shaw Avenue on April 22. The trees are saplings for now, but each has the potential to be a tall arboreal splendor to behold for years to come.

It’s all thanks to the work of around 30 volunteers from the Valley Stream Beautification Committee and Northwell Health, who grabbed their gardening gloves and shovels and rolled up their sleeves to steer the trees into pits dotted along the sidewalks.

A total of 30 saplings were donated as part of Northwell Health’s Trees for Babies initiative, which aims to plant a tree for every baby delivered in the network’s health care system.

The tree planting was an involved undertaking, Village Community Development Committee member David Sabatino noted. 

For each planting site, Sabatino explained, “It’s important to make sure you have the proper width and depth. If the tree is too constrained or too deep or too high, it will not have a good start. After you have the tree in the hole, the next step is to properly install the tree stakes and arbor tie so the tree can be stabilized and given a chance to establish itself without falling over.”

Once the sapling sits firmly in its hole, a healthy coating of mulch is placed around the tree pit “to protect the roots, hold down the soil, and retain water,” Sabatino said. “We also install watering bags, which slowly release water.”

Bringing the visual appeal of nature to busy streets is worth the drudge work and extra care. And it’s been something of a passion project for village officials like Sabatino. Horticulturalists and developers have long extolled the benefits that trees bring to the ecosystem.

“Trees remove pollution, reduce runoff of sediment, pollutants and organic matter into streams, improving our water quality,” Sabatino added.

But the magic they give to streets is equally impressive. These giants of the natural world are known to boost people’s moods with their presence, freshen the air around them, and calm traffic by indicating to drivers that they’re entering what appears to be a more occupied street — possibly teeming with nearby bicyclists and pedestrians — making them slow down and be more aware of where they are.   

“Trees are so important for the health and beauty of our whole town,” said Cathryn Natoli, chairperson of the village’s beautification committee. “We were so grateful to be included in the tree planting initiative.”

In fact, the village of Valley Stream — certified as a “tree city” by the Arbor Day Foundation, which partnered with the beautification committee on this project — takes its tree population very seriously. Not only have trees come to represent a particular point of pride for residents who can’t seem to get enough of them, but they are also heavily protected under zoning rules meant to stop them from being cut down or uprooted indiscriminately. The village keeps a dedicated list of the shorn trees the village needs to replace. And it routinely adds more trees to its existing population.

Two years ago, the village planted a dozen or so tulip trees at Arthur J. Hendrickson Park. This is welcome news for residents who have long adored getting away from concrete and trekking the walking trails of the village’s 100 acres of wooded parks and visiting its tree-lined scenic spots. But now greater efforts are being made to spread that lush touch of green to otherwise concrete-clad village streetscapes like that of West Merrick Road. And the village is just getting started.

“This tree planting event will have a lasting impact, providing value and beauty to a main corridor through our community,” said Mayor Ed Fare.

The saplings will be nurtured and cared for under the watchful eye of the village arborists and the Department of Public Works until they’ve fully matured, noted Sabatino, who mentioned that the department added 16 additional trees in the days following the planting event.

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