New Haven’s City Services and Environmental Policy Committee met Thursday evening at City Hall to discuss several citizen requests and concerns, focusing especially on proposed changes to Parks, Recreation and Trees Department policy.

Ward 18 Alder Salvatore DeCola — the chair of the committee — Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth, Ward 21 Alder Steven Winter and Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand met in the aldermanic chambers to discuss three items. City resident Nicholas Colavople’s request for compensation for the damage caused by a city-planted tree outside his house took up the majority of the meeting. Other items discussed included a petition to designate the corner of Basset and Newhall Street as “Tyrick B. Keyes Corner” after the late child activist, as well as the establishment of a residential parking zone on Portsea Street.

According to Colavolpe, a fallen branch from a city tree damaged his car in the early weeks of January. Colavolpe’s complaints centered around the slow reaction time of the New Haven parks department, which led Alders to discuss the broader issue of citizens’ rights to an appeals process.

“The game is over, we have to fix it,” DeCola said. “I don’t want to hear anymore ‘we’re doing the best we can.’ We need to be proactive.”

DeCola’s words reference the extreme backlog of requests filed with the parks department, in addition to its limited range of action. Parks, Recreation and Trees director Rebecca Bombero and deputy director William Carone spoke at the meeting in response to these criticisms, explaining that some of the added requests are due to recent wind storms and water events. Bombero also reported that the department can only send out four crews of workers at a time, and stressed that the department is sorely lacking in equipment like bucket trucks, which crews require for tree trimming.

City legal adviser John Rose Jr. accompanied the representatives from the parks department, defending the department against the committee’s suggestion that its reporting process does not allow New Haven residents to fully exercise their rights.

Letters exchanged between Colavolpe and the parks department were discussed at the meeting. According to Salvatore, the letters demonstrated that no appeals program is explicitly offered to citizens who may need services.

Controversy erupted when Rose stated, “We’re not going to tell them to sue us.” Salvatore answered with “why not?” and prompted raised voices that echoed throughout the aldermanic chambers.

Discussion of parks department policy, and confusion over wind speeds, temperatures and the presence of storms stretched the debate over Colavolpe’s case for almost two hours.

The ambiguity of the original letters and reports from the parks department prompted Roth to note the poor handling of the case.

Alders opened the floor to public comments following the testimony of the parks department. One speaker, a New Haven resident and owner of Precision Cutting Service, offered his help and his bucket truck to the parks department, who spoke with him after he left the stand. Ward 27 Alder Richard Furlow also spoke, encouraging the committee to work on refining the Parks, Recreation and Trees appeals process.

The committee then voted to reconvene following more research on the reports.

Alders also discussed the the street corner designation case, with Marchand recalling the “absolute tragedy” of Keyes’ 2017 death by gunshot wounds. After discussing fees associated with the designation, the committee voted to pass the petition.

Item two, the creation of residential parking zones on Portsea Street from Howard to DeWitt Streets, also passed after Douglas Hausladen, director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking of New Haven, spoke on the subject.

The committee adjourned at 8:24 pm.

Valerie Pavilonis | valerie.pavilonis@yale.edu .