“Too many kids growing up in the city are disconnected not just from employment and education, but also nature, and this combines all three,” said Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner.
On the day of Mr. Chisholm’s lesson, the trainees stepped into harnesses and looped up their ropes to try to incorporate the new moves. Arborists from Asplundh Tree Expert and Bartlett Tree Experts, two of the companies sponsoring the program, coached the climbers up the tree.
Mr. Linares, wearing Coco Chanel sunglasses, hoisted his sturdy frame off the ground as if he were raising an overfilled bucket from a well. He stopped at the first branch and made it to his feet as his classmates on the ground shouted “Let’s go, Manny!” and “Trust your ropes!” Mr. Linares hugged the tree trunk and looked toward the sky.
The tree climbers drew puzzled looks from people walking through Bronx Park. Every few minutes, a Metro-North railroad train traveling north on the New Haven line screamed past, a reminder of the sprawling city that lay just beyond the park.
But until lunchtime, the only thing that mattered was climbing the oak tree. Maurice Samuels, 22, who grew up in Harlem’s St. Nicholas housing projects, sailed up it faster than many others had. He made his way along a narrow branch, nimble as a tightrope walker. A plane passed above, causing a few heads to turn, but Mr. Samuels, 50 feet in the air, never noticed.