A proposed Yale project to beautify Prospect Street — at the expense of its 18 Norway maple trees — has been met with criticism from city residents.
University spokesman Tom Conroy said Yale would fund the entire project, which includes creating a planting bed and curb on Prospect Street, as well as replacing the maple trees with 21 oak trees. But signs on Prospect Street posted Aug. 15 informing city residents of the trees’ removal sparked public disapproval, prompting the city to organize a public hearing at which Yale and city officials will detail the plan. Anne Hartjen, senior project manager with the New Haven City Plan Department, said that while anticipating public reaction to any city project is impossible, tree removal does not usually sit well with the public.
“Generally, people do not like trees being taken down, and we know that,” Hartjen said. Hartjen added that the City Plan Department did not need to approve the proposal since it will be constructed on Yale’s private property, but the University underwent the process as a courtesy.
Even though the project will be constructed on Yale’s property, the decision whether to remove Prospect Street’s maples belongs to Christy Hass, deputy director for New Haven’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees, because the trees are city property. Hass said she received a “fair amount” of negative response to to the slated tree removal in the form of phone calls, emails and letters. Hass added that state statute requires public notification when tree removal is requested, followed by a 10-day period for public comments. If any written complaints are made during this time period, Hass said, a public hearing must be held.
Hass said she is in favor of their removal because several of the maples are diseased and “less desirable” than other trees found in Connecticut.
Though Norway maples are the city’s predominant type of tree, they are considered an “invasive species” in Connecticut because they are non-native plants, said Hass. In addition, Conroy said, the trees’ roots are shallow and cause landscaping problems. Norway maples, he added, suffer from limb loss during storms. Hass said she will likely invite researchers to the hearing to inform the public of these problems.
Hass said the maples may be replaced by scarlet oaks, although the city is also considering several other types of oak trees. The Urban Resources Initiative, a non-profit University initiative affiliated with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, will take up the replanting process, she added.
New Haven resident Susan Klein said she sent Hass an email on Aug. 16 asking for more information after seeing the tree removal notices.
Though she said she was initially unsure if a public hearing was necessary, Klein said it will allow city residents to express their opinions after learning more about the University project.
“I was just concerned about the loss of mature trees that are not only providing shade but also helping with air quality and the beauty of the street,” Klein said.
Conroy said the creation of a new planting bed curb for flowers and new trees will improve the landscaping along the Grove Street Cemetery wall.
Hass said the public hearing is expected to take place around Sept. 17.