Trees along Melnea Cass Boulevard are testament to power of local voices
Re “When equity means shade: Activists pan Roxbury project that would raze boulevard’s mature trees” (Page A1, Aug. 24): David Abel’s article shined a light on environmental injustice in Roxbury. Nearly a decade ago, residents formed Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard; ever since, they have been raising questions about the road reconstruction project. It is our honor to stand with them to demand a public tree hearing for these 124 trees.
These trees are not a commodity to be built through; instead, they are an asset to be built around. They provide critical benefits for local residents.
With climate change, our summers are getting hotter; these trees cool the streets.
With COVID-19, increased asthma rates put communities at higher risk; these trees clean the air.
As a community of Black and Indigenous people and people of color, residents face increased stressors; these trees provide calm, improving mental health.
The history of Boston’s urban tree canopy is rooted in a painful history of redlining. The same morning as Abel’s piece, a New York Times report explored the intersection between redlining and heat islands. It traced how systemic racist federal policy from the 1930s continues to define local urban environments today.
Melnea Cass Boulevard’s trees have a more immediate history too. They were planted after residents halted the interstate highway. These trees are a testament to the power of local voices. They have stood proudly for decades, growing with the community, providing respite and shade, hope and solace, clean air and clean water, in a Boston neighborhood that has been the center for Black culture and a site of environmental injustice.
For the residents of Boston, trees define community and nurture health. We support activist Yvonne Lalyre, residents of Roxbury, and communities throughout Boston in making sure that all residents get the trees, and the environment, they deserve.
Alternatives for Community and Environment
Speak for the Trees, Boston
It behooves the city to rethink its plan to cut down these trees
Thank you for your informative coverage of the City of Boston’s atrocious plan to cut down 124 beautiful, climate-mitigating, mature trees on Melnea Cass Boulevard.
It is a plan formed years ago, when we had much less understanding of mature trees’ role in sequestering carbon, cooling city neighborhoods, and promoting the emotional health of the people of those neighborhoods. Ten years ago we also had far less appreciation than we do today for environmental justice and the impact of societal racism on areas inhabited mostly by people of color — areas that therefore often have much less tree canopy than richer and whiter ones. This makes every tree in such communities that much more precious.
In light of our new awareness of all these things, it behooves the city to reconceptualize its thinking about Melnea Cass Boulevard, listen to the people of Roxbury who wish passionately to preserve their trees, and ditch this horrible idea.
Remember the Memorial Drive protest of 1964
The attempt of authorities to cut down so many trees on Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury reminds me of how the beautiful sycamore trees lining Memorial Drive in Cambridge were saved by demonstrating Harvard students and others in May 1964, when I was a graduate student there. Good luck to the current generation in saving the mature trees.
Jay M. Pasachoff