Don’t Just Trim the Trees — Managing Your Cooperative’s Urban Forest

Whether you’re the manager of a four-plex with two trees or the on-site manager of a housing cooperative with 10,000 of them, you, my friend, are responsible for managing an urban forest.

An urban forest could best be described as a forest or collection of trees that grow within a city, town or suburb. In a wider sense, this could include any woody plant vegetation growing in and around single-family, multi-family or common interest housing developments. So, if you’re a property manager, board member or a member, it’s important to learn some basic terms and principles of proper tree care. Even if you’re not an arborist, that basic knowledge can help you manage your urban forest — so let’s get started.

Topping Trees

It might sound a bit like a holiday tradition, but what we arborists know as “topping trees” is actually a heinous practice. According to the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), “topping is the indiscriminate cutting back of tree branches to stubs or lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role. Other names for topping include ‘heading,’ ‘tipping,’ ‘hat-racking’ and ’rounding over’. Not only does the practice of topping violate nationally accepted standards for proper pruning, but it seriously injures trees.

A few of the problems caused by topping include:

  • STARVATION: Topping removes so much of the crown of the tree that it upsets an older tree’s well-developed crown-to-root ratio, temporarily cutting off its food-making ability. The tree goes into shock and readily produces new shoots — both of which most communities and homeowners probably don’t appreciate.
  • WEAK AND RAPID NEW GROWTH: The new shoots sprout out very quickly, but are poorly attached and far more numerous than if the tree hadn’t been topped. Now, you have a potential population problem on your hands.
  • INSECTS AND DISEASE: The large stems that are cut during topping have a difficult time healing over and are more subject to insect infestation, airborne pathogens and rot from standing water. Diseased trees not only look bad, but end up costing cooperatives time and money — which brings up the next point.
  • INCREASED MAINTENANCE AND COST: A topped tree will cost more to maintain on an annual basis than a tree that has been properly maintained. Topped trees usually have extra leaf drop from excessive growth — creating more work for you. Plus, you face an increased risk of having to remove the tree in a few years due to wood rot and disease.

Well, now that we have touched on why topping is bad for trees — and communities — let’s look at what is good and healthy for the trees in your urban forest.

Pruning for Proper Performance

  • CROWN CLEANING: Crown cleaning consists of the removal of dead, dying, broken, diseased, low vigor and competing branches and water sprouts. Most pruning of mature trees falls into this category. A majority of the time, this is what I prescribe when I am doing an assessment for a property manager. When pruning trees this way, you don’t want to remove more than 25 percent of the total vegetation of the tree. In fact, for some Oak species where I live (Southern California), I recommend removing a maximum of only 10 percent.
  • CROWN REDUCTION: Crown reduction is a pruning technique that removes weight from the end of branches back to a healthy, growing lateral branch, which will form a new crown. The process reduces long, heavy or overextended branches, as well as removing any branches with significant defects. This is preferable to tree topping as it does not create the long-term poor effects from topping a tree. And we still maintain that same 20-25 percent maximum of a tree’s total canopy be removed.

Removal

Sometimes it does become necessary to remove a tree, but how can you tell? Here are some reasons why an arborist might recommend removing a tree from your urban forest:

  • The tree is in a state of decline with more dead vegetation in the canopy than live vegetation;
  • The tree leans excessively over buildings or high traffic areas;
  • There are excessive rot /fruiting bodies at the base of a tree. A fruiting body — like a conk or mushroom — is the fruit of a fungus that has been at work in the host for several years.

As an arborist, I ask myself two questions when considering a tree for removal. First, what is the possibility of this tree failing? Second, what are the consequences of this tree failing? A tree located on a back slope with no foot traffic is much different than a tree that leans over a building or a playground. This list is by no means exhaustive but is a good starting point to help your cooperative make a better-informed decision on caring for your urban forest.

Consider Working with a Tree Specialist

If you’ve got trees, you’ve got an urban forest. It’s always best to work with an arborist to ensure the health of your trees. Here are a few things to ask about when choosing a tree care provider:

  • Is there a certified arborist on staff?
  • Do they have the proper general liability and workers’ compensation coverage?
  • Do they possess the appropriate contractor’s license with special licensing for tree care?
  • Do their employees all wear the correct P.P.E (personal protective equipment) at all times, and are there proper warning signs and cones set up on your property when trees are being maintained?

Many people in any kind of community tend to take trees for granted. Rather than leaving them alone and hoping for the best, focus on actively maintaining the trees on your property. Maintaining your urban forest is imperative to the beauty, safety and livability of your community.

Matt Russell is head of New Business Development at California Arbor Care in Chino, Calif.

Reprinted with permission from Gladly.

 

Residents of Two New England Manufactured Home Communities Celebrate Ownership

Residents of two Westfield manufactured home communities have a lot to celebrate as they take ownership of the land beneath their communities, securing affordable housing for their families.

In July, the residents of Arbor Mobile Home Park and Heritage MHP manufactured home communities in Westfield, Mass., became the newest manufactured housing cooperatives to join a national network of 247 resident-owned communities, totaling 16,851 homes in 16 states. The residents are excited about the opportunity to own and manage their communities.

“All I can say is, hurray! It’s already feeling like a community,” said Phyliss Martin, secretary of the Arbor Board of Directors. “We are excited to begin our journey together.”

For many residents, purchasing their communities creates the solace and peace of mind that they have secured affordable housing for the future, and in doing so, have protected their assets.

“As a residential owner, I can feel safe putting money into my home without the fear of losing it,” said Leo Matos, president of the Arbor Board.

The new resident owners of Heritage MHP are also looking to the future with optimism and hope.

“As homeowners, the purchase of our mobile home park represents our desire to move into the future with pride and to uphold the traditions of Westfield in a meaningful way,” said Joanne Ramirez, board secretary at Heritage.

“Every community purchase holds a unique story and set of circumstances and each also follows a familiar pattern – homeowners joining together to gain control of the land under their homes because it’s in their best interest to do so,” said Paul Bradley, president of ROC USA, LLC. “It’s as fundamental and simple as that when you get right down to it.”

Some members of Arbor Mobile Home Park celebrate being a cooperative. PHOTO BY LIBBY O’FLARHETY FOR THE ARBOR MOBILE HOME PARK

The Arbor and Heritage neighborhoods are part of a two-state, three-community sale that includes another community in Rhode Island. All three communities were put up for sale by the same owner as a package, under a single contract, and the purchase by three resident groups was executed simultaneously.

Taken together, the three community resident purchases will preserve 187 units of affordable housing. Residents of the Arbor purchased their community for $1.73 million, and the residents of Heritage purchased theirs for $1.79 million. The total purchase price of the three communities was $6.9 million. ROC USA® Capital provided the financing.

“The option for three residents’ groups in two states to purchase their communities in a single deal presented a unique challenge,” said Andy Danforth, CDI’s New England Resident Owned Communities (NEROC) Program Director. “This type of a deal has never been executed before. In all, we now support 49 converted communities in six states with close to 12,000 residents and over $200 million of program investment in the last nine years.”

Doug Clopp is the director of Development & Communications at the Cooperative Development Institute in Northampton, Mass.

 

First New York City Cooperative Installs Solar Panels

In December, an affordable 60-unit cooperative known as128 West 138th Street (the Co-op) became the first in the city to install solar panels under a program designed to bring renewable energy to buildings in upper Manhattan neighborhoods.

As a part of the Solar Uptown Now (SUN) campaign led by WE ACT for Environmental Justice (WE ACT), nine Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) cooperatives will be completing solar electric installations on their rooftops, saving a total of $59,000 in the first year. The solar installations will save a total of 4,117 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of the systems.

WE ACT brought in the nonprofit Solar One, which conducted a feasibility study, provided cost and savings estimates and studied tax breaks and incentives. Working in collaboration with WE ACT, Solar One produced a request for proposals that required the contractor to use some of the workers from WE ACT’s neighborhood jobs-training program.

Since the 128 West 138th Street’s board was in the middle of a major parapet replacement and brick-pointing project and the roof was nearing the end of its useful life, it decided to have the contractor resurface the roof before the installation. The roof resurfacing cost $75,000, and the board authorized the expenditure of $38,000 of the Co-op’s funds to install the solar panels together with a $22,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Various tax abatements and incentives will bring the board’s Co-op’s cost down even further – resulting in a recovery of its investment in less than six years.

Cooperative Developers among Fund Recipients

The U.S. Treasury Department recently announced the distribution of $160,000,000 in funds to 221 community development financial institutions. Among the awardees are Capital Impact Partners (an affiliate of NCB), New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and Chicago Community Loan Fund.

CSI Upgrades, Rebrands and Refinances Its Kalamazoo, Mich., Cooperative

CSI support and development announced this summer that it would invest $300,000 to upgrade its senior housing cooperative in Washington Square—the first step in a five-year, $6 million renovation plan. The near-term enhancements include improvements to the interior and exterior, enhanced security and a name change for the Kalamazoo, Mich., cooperative.

Washington Square Co-op will be known as City View in the Square. CSI’s immediate plans for the cooperative include exterior improvements to the building and entryway, additional lighting, ornamental fencing, enhanced landscaping and parking entrance gates for added security.