Support the Trees on Melnea Cass Boulevard: We Demand a Public Tree Hearing

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Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard
c/o Val Shelley
5 DeGautier Way
Roxbury, MA  02119
mcbgreenway@gmail.com

August 6, 2020 

Commissioner Ryan Woods
Corporation Counsel Eugene O’Flaherty

Re: Request for a public hearing concerning tree removal along Melnea Cass Boulevard

Dear Commissioner Woods and Attorney Flaherty:

We write to support the request from the Conservation Law Foundation for a Chapter 87 Public Shade Tree hearing with the city’s Tree Warden concerning the removal of more than 100 mature trees in Lower Roxbury along Melnea Cass Boulevard. Our organizations include local residents concerned about this project and the impact the loss of trees will have on air quality, ambient temperature, and livability  in this neighborhood, part of a designated severe heat island in Boston’s Climate Ready Boston Final Report from 2016. Quoting from Mayor Walsh’s 2019 Climate Action Plan: “By 2050, Boston’s summers may be as hot as Washington, DC’s summers are today; by the end of the century, they may be hotter than Birmingham, AL summers are today.”

This reconstruction project was designed years ago, under a different administration, and before decision-makers understood the increased severity of climate change. Today, during this summer heat wave, we are witnessing Roxbury’s future: it, like the rest of Boston, is hotter and hotter. Trees are a critical tool for us to meet and adapt to the challenges that this future holds. In his testimony at a June 2019 City Council hearing on our urban forest, Chief of Environment and Energy, Chris Cook  acknowledged the outsized environmental value that mature trees play.

In the 1960s residents of Boston successfully fought against the construction of Interstate I-95 and the Inner Belt, highways that would have cut through Boston and displaced families, increased air pollution, and removed green space in the heart of the city. Their advocacy ensured that this section in Roxbury, already cleared for the project, would become a greener and more community-friendly boulevard for a primarily Black neighborhood of Boston. That road, now known as Melnea Cass Boulevard named in honor of the Boston civil rights leader who fought for decades for racial equity in Boston, today is lined with over 600 mature trees that provide the community with clean and cool air, pleasant walkways, storm water run-off flooding protection and a sense of pride.

An aerial photograph of Melnea Cass Boulevard from Imagine Boston 2030 shows a wide swath of green lining the Boulevard.  Sadly  many of those trees are gone, as vacant parcels have been developed. With this reconstruction project, we are at risk of losing many more trees  from both sides of the street. Even among those trees to be “preserved”, over 200 will have their roots cut, shortening their life span and leading to even further loss. Is this environmental justice: To hope that maybe in 30 or 40 years we will have the equivalent canopy? What will those intervening years be like for the neighborhood? Who will suffer most from severe heat, dirtier air, and less livable streets? We request a Chapter 87 public hearing on the removal of these 100 shade trees so that the community’s voice can be heard.

Sincerely,

Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard

Alternatives for Community and Environment
Arborway Coalition
Black Boston COVID Coalition
Black Economic Justice Institute
Boston Clean Energy Coalition
Boston Climate Action Network
Boston Cyclists Union
Boston Food Forest Coalition, Inc.
Boston Park Advocates
Brownstones Alliance
Charlesgate Alliance
Charles River Watershed Association
Chester Square Neighbors
Climable.org
Climate Code Blue
Climate Justice at Boston College
Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Fridays For Future - Metro Boston
Friends of the Boston Schoolyards
Friends of the Public Garden
Garden Club of the Back Bay
Garrison-Trotter Neighborhood Association
GreenRoots
LivableStreets Alliance
Mandela Resident Cooperative Association
Mass Audubon
MassBike
Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants
Massachusetts Climate Action Network
Mothers Out Front - Acton
Mothers Out Front - Boston
Mothers Out Front - Brookline
Mount Pleasant, Forest & Vine Neighborhood Association
Muddy Water Initiative
Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay
New England Forestry Foundation
Next Leadership Development Corporation
Nubian Square Neighborhood Association
Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation
Olaleye Communications, Inc.
Our Revolution Green New Deal working group
Pollinator Networks
Protect Biodiversity in Public Forests
Roxbury Cultural District
Roxbury Neighborhood Council
Roxbury Path Forward Neighborhood Association
Speak for the Trees, Boston
Sierra Club Chapter of Massachusetts
The Best Bees Company
Tommy's Rock Neighborhood Association (TRNA)
Tree Eastie
Trees for Watertown
United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury
WalkBoston