Stewardship of a neighborhood is a mentality. Maintaining the beauty of local streets and trees requires more than a few passionate individuals, but the commitment of a community at large­. A neighborhood can only truly transform when any given resident stops to pick up a piece of trash or remembers to curb their dog—without thinking twice. That’s how stewardship works best; it’s the key to improving our daily space exponentially.

The challenge: Casting stewardship in a positive light. Penalties and fines may reduce littering but also leads to resentment. Who wants to live amid bitter neighbors? This past year, Curb Allure was lucky enough to be involved in “Love Your Tree,” an initiative that helped solved this riddle. How our initiative evolved serves as a terrific template for others who want to foster street stewardship in their own communities.

From left to right: Kim Johnson (Curb Allure), Cheryl Blaylock (TreesNY), Helen Rosenthal (City Council Member District 6) and Melissa Elstein (West 80’s Neighborhood Association) at the First Annual Love Your Tree Day

Last year, a group of civic leaders on the Upper West Side of Manhattan–West 80’s Block Association, Goddard Riverside Greenkeepers, Community Board 7 and Curb Allure, and others–joined forces with District 7 City Council Member, Helen Rosenthal to launch “Love Your Tree” Day. On a lovely May afternoon, neighbors convened for refreshments before setting out to clean up streets and tree beds. Each participant received a free tree care bag containing a dog reminder sign as well as other tree care necessities donated by local businesses. By introducing street care in a fun, social way, “Love Your Tree” hoped to instill residents with a sense of responsibility for the beauty of their block.

The plan worked. “Love Your Tree” Day received such a positive response that the group hosted Daffodil Day on September 27th. Within the first half hour of this three-hour event, the “Love Your Tree” organizers had already run out of bulbs! The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation took note and invited our new initiative to co-host the popular MulchFest at West 83rd and Riverside, one of the city’s main mulching stations, along with the Riverside Parks Conservancy, Trees New York, NYC Department of Sanitation and GreeNYC.

Melissa Elstein of West 80s Neighborhood Association at MulchFest in Riverside Park @ 83rd Street

As evidenced by the schedule below, the “Love Your Street” initiative (newly re-branded to encompass all aspects of street care) already has a full calendar planned for this year.

Curb Allure Founder Kim Johnson is optimistic that there’s more growth to come. “We cannot wait to see what else 2016 will bring,” she says. “Hopefully other NYC neighborhoods as well as other cities will get inspired by our program and its success to start their own beautification initiatives.” Stewardship might not just be a mentality, but a contagious one at that.