NEWBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Millions of people ring in the joyous holiday season with the traditional lighting of a huge Norway Spruce in Rockefeller Center.
We often see it cut down out in the country and carefully trucked into Manhattan, but you may not know what happens when the 50,000 lights are turned off after the holidays.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, the tree is actually cut up and milled into lumber, then used to help build affordable housing by the non-profit Habitat for Humanity group.
“The tree has a second life, and so that joy that’s there, that you see during the holiday season lives on for the family that purchases their home,” Habitat’s Cathy Collins said.
Last year’s tree is now being put to use spacing the ceiling supports inside what was a decrepit row house currently being rehabbed in Newburgh. That makes some neighbors in the struggling Orange County city smile.
“If they’re going to take the trees and everything and make wood out of the trees and put it inside the house I believe that’s very good,” resident Billy Newkirk said.
Since four homes on South Miller Street have lumber from past Rockefeller Center trees, they’ve taken to calling the strip “Rockefeller Row.”
For ten years, the owners of Rockefeller Center have donated the trees to Habitat, and Newburgh got some in 2010, 2015, and 2016.
“We were fortunate enough to be selected by Habitat International and Tishman Speyer to receive the milled lumber,” Collins said.
Josh Zaloga coordinates an army of volunteers working on the homes.
“The tree does represent Christmastime,” he said. “I grew up in New York and have been in New York my whole life, so seeing something so iconic being used… just like the lumber, we support the neighborhood and the neighborhood supports us.”
As for the families who will call the new houses their homes, they get a little Christmas cheer built in all year round.