There was a time when the economic contribution of the arts to a community went uncalculated and underappreciated. Then, in 1992, Americans for the Arts did its first study of the role the nonprofit arts and culture industry played in strengthening the nation's economy: Arts and Economic Prosperity. Now in its fourth iteration, the study clearly demonstrates that arts and culture is an economic driver in communities. Americans for the Arts even provides a tool--the Arts & Economic Prosperity Calculator--that communities can use to estimate the economic benefit of the arts to them.
Now a new study has put a value on another apparent intangible: urban trees. Alderman David Marston (First Ward) brought to Gossips' attention this article that appeared in The Atlantic Cities: "The High Cost of Losing Urban Trees." It reports on a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service on the economic benefits--through energy savings, air and water filtering, and carbon storage--of the urban trees in Tennessee. Those benefits total $638 million. The valuations do not consider the aesthetic value of streets and parks lined with trees. Those benefits are more difficult to quantify, but, as the article points out, the Tennessee study was only a pilot.
Similar studies have been or are now being done in Indiana, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Colorado. One wonders how such a study could be initiated in New York.