Better Midler Plants Trees in Soundview
By Bill Weisbrod
Friday, May 6, 2011 1:13 PM EDT
Some may like Bette Midler for her role in “Gypsy,” while others might be able to sing every word of her hit song “The Wind behind My Wings.” But her latest hit she came when she planted some trees in the Bronx.
Midler’s New York Restoration Project teamed with the New York City Housing Authority and a host of corporate sponsors to organize a day of tree planting at the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses in Soundview on Arbor Day, Thursday, April 28.
Midler was joined by public school students from all over the city and volunteers from BNP Paribas, one of the event’s sponsors, in spending the afternoon planting trees to both maintain and increase green space throughout the housing complex.
“It’s thrilling,” Midler said about the tree planting. “It’s one of the biggest thrills of my life, and it’s really not such a hard thing to do.”
Midler lives in Manhattan and she said she has noticed a major change in the Bronx since decades ago.
“Things have improved so vastly since the 70s and 80s,” she said. “I remember how bad it used to be. And that’s what we want to have all over, for everyone to have the right to clean, green open space.”
The Sotomayor Houses encompass 28 buildings, with 1,497 apartments and 4,491 residents. Melania Allen, director of Bronx Property Management for NYCHA, said the event fit in perfectly with what the organization has been trying to do in public housing throughout the city.
“It’s about looking out for the future, and the cleaning of our environment,” Allen said. “These trees will do part of the job.”
Midler founded NYRP in 1995. The organization is dedicated to promoting green space exclusively within the five boroughs. It organized a five-year cleanup project in Roberto Clemente State Park that started in 2003.
Amy Frietag is the executive director of NYRP. She said working with community groups is the most effective way for her organization to achieve its goal of a greener city.
“Every Bronx person knows their neighborhood better than we ever would,” Frietag said. “NYCHA really wanted us to come to Sotomayor.”
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. dug his shovel into the ground at the Sotomayor Houses as well. He called NYRP “a leader in a supporting our green spaces, promoting environmental friendliness and healthier lifestyles.”