Chris Anderson is a NYSUFC Board Member and is Director of Research for the Association of Towns of the State of New York, headquartered in Albany.
Please tell us about your background. I’m originally a Hoosier. While both of my parents came from farm families, I was raised in the second largest city in Indiana—Fort Wayne. I’ve lived in New York—Albany, Schenectady, and Schoharie counties at various times—for the last 17 years. I love New York and have no plans on leaving.
What is your personal connection to urban forestry? Whether it was the grove of American beech on my grandmother’s farm near Indianapolis or the black locust outside my window as a child in Fort Wayne, I’ve always had great affinity for trees. As a local government wonk, I’ve learned the value that urban forestry provides. What initially was aesthetic pleasure has grown to include a practical appreciation as well.
Please tell us about the Association of Towns. The Association of Towns was established in 1933 to help town obtain greater economy and efficiency. It serves town governments by providing training programs, research and information services, technical assistance, legal services, insurance programs, and a variety of educational publications to member towns.
Please tell us about your position as Director of Research for the Association of Towns. I started this position in 2010. Prior to that, I was a senior research analyst with the New York State Senate Research Service for nearly a decade.
I provide our executive board, director, members, and counsel with public policy analyses; select topics and speakers for regional training schools for local officials; and support the director and counsel during hearings and testimonies. I really enjoy data analysis. There is a great satisfaction that comes with uncovering answers and patterns.
What are some research findings that might really surprise folks? I often get a pause when I tell someone that the median town population in New York is 2,900 and yet roughly half of the State’s population lives in a town.
Also, one often hears of the term “The Big Five,” which refers to the cities of New York, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers. In fact, the five most populous municipalities in the state are New York City and the towns of Hempstead, Brookhaven, Islip, and Oyster Bay.
How might the Association and the NYSUFC support one another? The Council and the Association of Towns are a natural fit. There isn’t a town in the state that can’t benefit in some way from the assistance the Council provides on urban forestry issues, whether that is education, technical assistance, or advocacy. The Association is a conduit through which the Council can expand their audience.
When you’re at a cocktail party and someone asks you what urban forestry is, what is your quick answer? Municipal quality of life! The economic and environmental benefits of trees can’t be understated. Reduced run-off, increased property values, cleaner air—the list goes on and on. So plant a tree … just not under any utility lines.
What are your interests in your free time? In addition to the usual things like going to the movies and dining out, I’m a hiker. Specifically, I’ve been hiking to the few remaining fire towers in the state. And this year was the first really good year for snowshoeing in a long time. That was a lot of fun.
What’s something your Council cohorts may not know about you? I enjoy books about Napoleonic naval warfare, both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to New York, I’ve lived in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland.