By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Wanted on the Upper West Side — green thumbs who dig public service and aren't afraid of traffic.
Community Board 7 is looking for people, businesses, schools and other organizations to adopt 28 newly planted trees on Columbus Avenue.
The Department of Transportation installed the trees inside pint-sized green spaces called "tree pits" on pedestrian medians next to Columbus Avenue's new protected bike lane, which runs from West 96th to West 77th streets.
The city doesn't maintain, weed or water tree pits, so CB7 is reaching out to local organizations to keep the mini-gardens flourishing.
Young trees need about 10 to 15 gallons of water a week to thrive in the summer months, according to guidelines distributed by the board. Each tree pit is surrounded by a rectangle of dirt that's perfect for perennials, annuals or bulbs.
So far, about five tree pits have been adopted, some as part of the board's official effort, but others are tended by more unofficial caregivers.
Anna Flossos, owner of Jackson Hole restaurant, said she wasn't aware of the community board's official tree pit adoption program. She planted flowers in the pit outside her restaurant at West 85th Street because she was sick of watching dog owners let their hounds relieve themselves on it.
"We water it every morning," Flossos said. "We don't want a dead tree in front of our store."
Likewise, an employee at Jeffrey Stein salon near West 84th Street said he didn't know about the official planting push, but decided to introduce sunflowers on a whim.
Several groups have offered to care for pits in the neighborhood.
The Mandell School promised to care for tree pits near West 95th Street, the American Museum of Natural History adopted some near West 77th Street, and Quality Florist says it will look after tree pits between West 81st and 82nd streets.
Vegetables and plants that grow taller than two feet high aren't allowed, according to guidelines distributed by CB7, which also cautions gardeners to be careful when they're tending their plots.
"You have traffic on one side and bikes on the other. We want you to enjoy your tree pit creations," the planting guidelines say.
CB7 member Helen Rosenthal adopted the tree pit at West 83rd Street.
While locals are divided on whether bike lanes are helping or hurting the Upper West Side, Rosenthal said people seem to agree on the benefits of the tree pits. Strangers regularly stop to say hello and thank her for making the street more beautiful, Rosenthal said.
Last Friday morning she poured a green watering can over her plot, where she recently planted echinacea and coreopsis sunfire, also known as tickseed.
"The impact is more community spirit," Rosenthal said of the planting initiative. "It's very West Side. It makes a place that can be so overwhelming a great community."