May 27, 2022

City to remove trees from Malcolm X Park over objections of some residents

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After weeks of negotiations with the city, a group of Roxbury residents is weighing filing for an injunction to prevent dozens of large legacy trees at Malcolm X Park from being cut down.

At a Zoom meeting Tuesday night with residents, city officials said the park has 254 trees. Of them, 179 are on an area known as Honeysuckle Hill.

Initially, the city was going to remove 54 of them but now plans to cut down 29.

The trees are part of an oasis that was designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and that filter diesel from buses waiting to drop off and pick up children at a nearby school, produce oxygen and shade, reduce temperatures in the summer, provide “visual and spiritual uplift,” and enhance property values, said Derrick Evans, who lives nearby.

“What’s the point of all of this community input if this is where we end up?” Evans said in an interview before last night’s meeting. “Olmsted and Malcolm X are rolling over in their graves because (the city’s) destroying this park and harming this community.”

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department has received notice from the contractor that the city will be charged for stopping construction and any losses the contractor incurs due to that stoppage, but the full amount of the contractor fees is “unknown,” a spokeswoman for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department said Tuesday.

The city’s position is that it must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Honeysuckle Hill, the part of the park with the oldest trees, currently is too steep to be accessible for people who use wheelchairs, the spokeswoman said.

However, she conceded, “When the original park design meetings happened, it is true that there were no community meetings about trees, and there were no discussions about the tension between tree preservation and ADA accessibility.”

“To me, it’s a false choice between the trees and disabilities,” Evans said.

People who use wheelchairs can access the park from three other entrances, he said.

At a Zoom meeting last night, Linda Freeman said, “I understand why ADA is important. But if you don’t have a motorized wheelchair… you have people who huff and puff (to get up an incline) and don’t want to come back.”

Malcolm X Park is slated for more than $8.8 million in improvements, including a $2 million donation of AstroTurf from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, with groundbreaking next week on a yearlong project to give it a major face-lift — hence the changes happening around it.

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