Raymond Gao

On March 22, New Haven Tree Warden Rebecca Bombero announced plans to remove all 30 trees in Wooster Square to make room for a 299-apartment complex at 87 Union St. — a planned development project by New York-based developer Adam America.

The decision was made after two public hearings and extensive feedback from many concerned residents of New Haven. Although she acknowledged that choosing to remove all 30 trees was not an easy decision, Bombero told the News that she was confident that it was the right one to make.

“There’s a lot of things that need to get weighed, and I gave the decision a lot of time and consideration,” Bombero said. “We accomplished what we could within the constraints of building the new building, allowing for safe construction and maintaining overall canopy.”

Bombero was asked to consider the removal of 19 trees. An initial public hearing at City Hall on these 19 trees was held on Feb. 26 and drew roughly a dozen community members. But Bombero realized that more trees would need to be removed in order to make room for construction, so she delayed making a decision on the removal of the 19 trees in order to consider all 30 trees at once with public input.

Bombero announced this decision in an email to everyone who attended the original hearing, and a second public hearing was scheduled for March 18. That time, the hearing addressed the removal of 11 additional trees.

“I made the first decision to push back and consider all the trees. It was confusing. We heard testimony on some of the trees that weren’t posted, so it made more sense to be able to consider everything at once,” Bombero told the News.

As per city ordinances, the developer is required to replace or pay for the replacement of any tree that is not already dying or otherwise diseased. A majority of the 30 trees considered were marked as damaged enough to justify removal without requiring Adam America Real Estate to replace them.

Still, the New York-based developer must replace or pay for many of them. If he chooses to replace them, he must plant one tree of the same size or multiple trees together that add up to the diameter length of the original tree.

“We remove dead, diseased, dying and structurally unsound trees that are a hazard for the public. We try to protect healthy trees, but the work that is performed around trees make their long term survival difficult. … We do it for the overall public good,” Bombero told the News.

Many members of the public spoke up in the first hearing, hoping to save as many trees as possible and reach common ground with the developers. Community members were open to the possibility that many or all the trees would be removed and were encouraged that Adam America was committed to replacing any trees necessary.

Yet frustration still remains for some community members. Robert Musco, a community organizer for the Friends of Wooster Square Parks community group, expressed optimism that the developer was operating fairly and openly with New Haven, especially in his agreement to replace trees.

While expressing some concern about the removal of these 30 trees, Musco’s larger worry was about New Haven’s long-term decision making and commitment to all of its residents. He said that the project may benefit upper-class residents of New Haven at the cost of trees that everyone in the city can take advantage of.

“What really worries me the most about this building project is that it represents yet another planning decision by New Haven to allow development that only benefits people in upper-income brackets,” he told the News. “I have seen nothing done in 15 years around the downtown area that is even remotely affordable for people like me.”

Adam America purchased the development project in late 2017 from another developer after years of litigation on the original project.

Emmett Shell | emmett.shell@yale.edu .