Tag Archives: street trees

Improving Your Neighborhood, One Mailbox at a Time

Keeping your street beautiful may seem merely like a cosmetic concern, yet statistics show that the cleaner, more well-maintained, and –yes— leafier a neighborhood, the more benefits enjoyed by all.

According to “Broken-Window Theory,” well-kept streets help deter crime. Now, there’s a new study  conducted by Kees Keize at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, that proves this theory  true. A few interesting tidbits:

  • Researchers left a cash-filled envelope sticking out of a mailbox with the money in plain view of pedestrians. One mailbox was covered with graffiti, while the others were clean. A quarter of the people walking by stole from the graffiti-covered mailbox whereas only 13% took the envelope from the clean one.
  • On a wall where people leave their bikes, researchers posted a “No Graffiti” sign and then left flyers on each of the bicycles.  Next they added graffiti to the wall despite their own warnings. Of the 80 bicycles monitored, 69% littered the wall with graffiti, as opposed to just 33% on the wall without.

Inspired, we decided to go beyond tree guards and join the U.S. Postal Service’s Adopt-A-Mailbox program in which citizens take responsibility for painting and maintaining a nearby mailbox. Here’s how it worked for us in New York City:

Our sad looking neighborhood mailbox.

Step 1.  Become A Post Box Care Captain. Contact your local post office to find out about the program. In New York City, you can call Cherry Liu at the US Postal Service (email: Cherry.C.Liu@usps.gov), who will provide the application form to fill out and return. Within one week of submission, Ms. Liu called us back with our approval and information about where to obtain the materials.

380 W 33rd St., Room 4061

380 W 33rd St., Room 4061

Step 2. Pick Up Materials. In New York City, we went to 380 W 33rd St. to Room 4061 (Entrance pictured above), where I received a can of blue paint for my mailbox and green paint for my relay  box (these ones serve as holding areas for mail so letter carriers do not have to carry all of their routes at once). I discovered that to care for both relay and mailboxes, you must adopt two of each. In addition, you are required to specify your adoption territory (i.e.:  East 75th to East 77th between Park and 5th Avenues). Not only is maintaining boxes very close to your house much easier, but you care more since you’ve got to look at those boxes every day.

Rather than a drop cloth, we just used some old cardboard.

Rather than a drop cloth, we just used some old cardboard.

Step 3. Keep It Tidy. To avoid dripping paint all over the sidewalk (very counterproductive given that we’re combating graffiti!), put down a drop cloth or just use cardboard boxes to protect the sidewalk as well as nearby cars. Cover the key hole with tape to ensure no paint gets inside.

Curb Allure joins Adopt A Mailbox Program and starts sanding local mailbox

Step 4. Smooth Things Out.  Sand any rusted spots if necessary.

Curb Allure joins Adopt A Mailbox Program by painting a local mailboxMailbox Roller

Step 5. Start Painting, Already! To get this part right, we suggest painting over the graffiti with a brush and then again with a roller. This way, you get nice even strokes.

Mailbox Wet Paint Step 6. Don’t Forget The Wet Paint Sign.  Ack! No one wants to ruin your work of art nor do they want green paint on their shorts.

Tada!

Step 7. Enjoy Results. Repeat.  Look at the glorious fruits of our labor!

The idea behind “Adopt-A-Mailbox” is that people take better care of their surroundings when they have a sense of ownership. They’re 100% right. When we finished sprucing up our mailbox, we were practically glowing with satisfaction. We think we may have spotted the trees nodding with approval too.

 

 

The Maple Leaf Forever Tree and Us

Every morning, trees tell us about the coming day, as their branches catch a gust of wind or cast a shadow off the rising sun. They mark each new season too, offering hopeful buds in Spring and gold-tinged leaves in Autumn. And they link us to generations past and future. Thirty years from now, our grandchildren could enjoy the shade of our favorite oak tree.

Trees connect us to our surroundings and to one another.

This concept serves as a driving force behind our work at Curb Allure.  Today on our fourth anniversary, we cannot think of a better way to celebrate than to share the story of Toronto (hometown of founder Kim Johnson) and its very special Maple Leaf Forever tree.

John McPherson, The House of A. Muir after a Shower in Toronto, 1907. (Toronto Public Library): Maple Leaf Forever lives on

John McPherson, The House of A. Muir after a Shower in Toronto, 1907. (Toronto Public Library)

This giant maple on Laing Street was said to inspire Alexander Muir to write “Maple Leaf Forever” , the beloved unofficial national anthem and poem of Canada. According to the Toronto Public Library, Muir came up with the song when he was strolling by the tree in front of his house in 1867 and a maple leaf fell on his shoulder.    For nearly 150 years, the Maple Leaf Forever tree stood as a testimony to Canada’s pride in both its national identity and profound natural beauty. Then, last July, a fierce storm knocked over the giant tree, devastating Canadians throughout the world.

(Steve Russell/Toronto Star): Maple Leaf Forever lives on : Protect it

(Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Determined to keep the Maple Leaf Forever alive, last month, the City of Toronto milled logs from the fallen tree and distributed them to 150 local artists, as reported in the Toronto Star. Many of the projects will be displayed publically throughout the city, including 30 wig stands to be donated to cancer patients.  While certainly the most noteworthy, the Maple Leaf Forever is just one of many fallen trees that Toronto has repurposed through an ongoing project. Here is their directory of Urban Wood Products and Services: www.toronto.ca/urbanwooddirectory.

Michael Finkelstein made these beautiful nesting bowls out of Maple Leaf Forever wood. http://michaelfinkelsteinwoodturner.com/inthenews.html

Michael Finkelstein made these beautiful nesting bowls out of Maple Leaf Forever wood.
http://michaelfinkelsteinwoodturner.com/inthenews.html

Art isn’t the only way the Maple Leaf Forever lives on. In 2000, engineer Bill Wrigley took maple keys from the original tree and planted them in his backyard, according to the Toronto Star. One sapling survived. Seven years later, Wrigley received permission to move the sapling to the Maple Leaf Forever Park, right near its “Mama Tree.” And, today, visitors can find comfort in seeing the historic tree’s “Baby”.

Curb Allure is deeply honored that the City of Toronto has asked to use one of our tree guards –with two different custom-designed panels—to protect the offspring of the Maple Leaf Forever tree. Keep an eye out for images of this special guard, which we will happily share following the dedication ceremony in late May.

Thanks to the ingenuity and passion of these Torontonians, the legacy of the Maple Leaf Forever continues.  Living trees require similar dedication from their community. If we want our neighborhood trees to welcome the next generation, it is up to us to protect them. And, as the Maple Leaf Forever and The City of Toronto have taught us, trees are well worth the trouble.

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The Art of Curbing

There are a million way to kindly tell people: “Keep your dog away from my tree!”  Here are some of New York City’s finest Curb Your Dog signs:

Simple and kind curb your dog signs is a great way to go

Simple & kind is a great option for a curb your pet sign…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or a goofy dog inside a flower curb your dog sign, as shown on Bleeker Street.

Or a goofy dog inside a flower curb your dog sign, as shown on Bleeker Street.

Curb your dog signs NYC

Flattery will get you everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An abundance of flowers make for a natural deterrent to protect urban trees

An abundance of flowers surrounding the urban tree & tree guard make for a natural deterrent.

 

Curb your Dog Signs do not need to be fancy.

Curb Your Dog Signs do not need to be fancy.

 

 

 

Sometimes simple hand-made Curb your pets tree guard notes have the greatest impact. "Out of the mouths of babes!"

Sometimes simple hand-made notes have the greatest impact. “Out of the mouths of babes!”

And, of course, there’s always Curb Allure’s classic tree guard Curb Your Dog Signs!

And, of course, there’s always Curb Allure’s classic tree guard Curb Your Dog sign!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It really doesn’t matter how you show your urban tree love and protect city street trees. Just get the word out: “Please Curb Your Dogs!”