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As city begins efforts to add and save trees on private property, Forest Hills residents fight to save one particular tree a developer wants to cut down

Plan for property showing the old oak tree

Plan submitted to zoning board by the developer last year shows the old oak tree in the upper right.

The oak tree

Residents say the BPDA has jumped into a battle - in which it's yet to take sides - to save 72 Hyde Park Ave., across from the Forest Hills station parking lot, where a developer who tore down a two-family house to replace it with a six-unit building has hired a tree service to take it down.

A crew was set to cut down the tree last month, but left after a resident of Wenham Street, which runs behind Hyde Park Avenue, noticed them setting up and went over and told them they couldn't, because developer Vladimir Sirotin had pledged to keep the tree, they left.

At a meeting last Friday with residents, state Rep. Sam Montano and aides to the mayor and Councilor Kendra Lara, Sirotin said he had to cut down the tree, because digging the foundation for the new building would require cutting a significant number of roots, the tree would likely die and even if it didn't, it's in the way of a required handicap ramp and drainage system.

The plan the zoning board reviewed before approving the sort of contemporary double triple decker on Aug. 23, 2022, showed the tree, which residents say could be more than 100 years old.

Although the project was too small to go through the normal BPDA approval process, the zoning board asked the BPDA to review the building's and site's designs, as it does with most projects.

Matt Shuman, one of the residents fighting to save the tree, says the BPDA discovered the plans Sirotin is using are not the ones he initially submitted to the city.

Sirotin submitted revised plans today. Shuman said residents have set up a form for tree supporters to send e-mail to the BPDA urging it - and its staff landscape architects - to help save the tree.

The activity comes as Boston works to extend its existing street-tree program to provide new trees for certain private home owners.

Mayor Wu, who as a city councilor in 2019, helped save the sycamore tree that gave Sycamore Street in Roslindale its name, joined with the Massachusetts Audubon Society in June to announce the Tree Alliance, which will seek to help community centers, houses of worship, and other non-profit organizations obtain and plant trees on their property.

"Increasing the number of trees in Boston will enhance our neighborhoods’ livability, health and resilience benefiting both our climate and our residents," Wu said then.

Rendering of proposed new building by David Choi:

Rendering of proposed new building at 72 Hyde Park Ave.

Watch the Aug. 23, 2022 zoning-board hearing at which the project was approved:

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Comments

This is important.

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Is it saving the one tree?

If you think saving one tree is important over 6 units of housing, how would you feel about the Fitzpatrick Brothers / Shawmut Station proposal getting killed over one tree?

You are all in on that.

There are a pile of trees which have to come out for that.

That's 74 units. That tree behind 138 Centre has to come down if 74 units of TOD housing have to be built.

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The 6 units are unaffected by the tree being maintained or not. Vlad can still build 6 units and also maintain the tree. He simply is deciding not too because it’s more expensive.

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The Arnold Arboretum is across the way.

Forest Hills Cemetery is at the top of the street.

Franklin Park is a hop, skip, and a jump.

Let's hold up 6 units of well-placed housing that will not have any parking spaces though over a tree.

Never change JP. It is fun to watch you constantly shoot yourselves in the foot over and over again with your narcissism.  

.

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The developer, Mr. Sirotin, presented plans to the city that indicated this tree would remain standing. According to a personal conversation with the BPDA today on the phone, Mr. Sirotin is using plans that "are different from what we signed off on."

We are lucky to have many forested areas in JP. I don't think that is a good reason not to advocate for keeping an old tree standing if the maintenance of that tree was a condition for the approval of the building plans.

Lastly, our collective preference would be to move forward as quickly as possible with the building, we're happy about the six new units. We'd just like to do so with design that is aligned to the initial building plans, the developers verbal commitment at the JPNC, and the city's stated goal of preserving as many old growth trees as possible.

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Get out of here.

Stop make Forest Hills sound like Arcadia. That whole site was cleared for housing in 1900. Don't make it sound like some native Americans held a gathering around the tree around 1500 or that some druids made it across the Atlantic and held a seance to some Celt god.

This is a tree that grew up from some animal dropping an acorn 75 years ago and that somebody let grow.

Old growth. My ass.

Such idiotic vanity.

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The area was cleared in 1900. But now we are clearing one lot at a time. Every tree provides important oxygen. We need to preserve them. As well, we need to take notice of builders that lie to get projects approved.

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You are now against Trinty's project at FitzPatrick / Shawmut because trees will have to be torn down?

A few trees against housing. Got it.

These aren't sequoias being taken down for trophy ski lodges.

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"Don't it always seem to go,that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?"

"They took all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em".

Seems relevant.
https://www.boston.gov/caring-bostons-urban-forest

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... the Arnold Arboretum is, however, free. ;-)

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Lol, I'm feeling your druid reference. If the tree stands buy me a beer at the Behan? If it goes, I'll buy you one at On Centre?

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I could be wrong, but nowhere does it say that maintenance of the tree was a condition for the approval of building, besides the “verbal commitment” (which is worth the paper it’s written on).

Can you please explain to me why this unseen old tree is so valuable? It seems like the rendering even shows the addition of two new trees in the front of the building, which the developer might have to eliminate if they shift the building forward.

Finally, homes for at least 6 people > one single hidden tree. To me that’s the crux of the issue.

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So we should all go to parks instead of our yards to experience trees. Got it.

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The only holdup is because the developer lied during the approval process and is trying to cheap out now. We can't let developers make promises during the planning stages then renege on them later to increase profit.

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How does he increase profit by cutting down a tree? Seems to me like it’s only made more of a headache for the developer. I’m sure if we lived in the magical fantasy world of JP we’d get the best of both worlds (tree and building), but seems like the realities of construction dictate otherwise.

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The Washington street corridor has built more housing in the last decade than wherever you live, I bet. How are JPers shooting themselves in the foot? Living in a beautiful, desired neighborhood is a bad thing?

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I don't think they get the FACT we need more trees and shrubs due to the traffic congestion pollution. Trees provide balanced shade and oxygen and absorb noise and provide mental and physical heath among so many other benefits. All development should include trees. And not sad incorrectly planted saplings that never grow (example: pathetic idea of sad trees that were planted where years ago when the Casey Arborway project was being done). So sad they are.

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If the BPDA/ City finds that this developer is using plans that are different than what was submitted and approved for this one project, there is a not-small likelihood that this developer has done that for other projects.

I wonder if the City will take the initiative to investigate whether he has done this before.

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John Costello hates trees. Based on his multiple replies to this post.

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Sounds to me like he likes housing

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How about it saves some tree on public lands? Half the trees around Jamaica Pond are dying.

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This is absurd. Let’s hold up six needed units of housing for a tree. It’s even at the back of the property where no one will see it.

You have to break some eggs to make an omelette, so cut that baby down.

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And do you think this is going to benefit poor and homeless destitutes you now see every step of your way all over city?

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Of course it will. Building housing of any kind helps. Besides, who do you think is going to live here? These six units are going to be homes for at least six different people.

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The City wants to build on every empty lot, provide no green space, put multiple units where there was only one and now they want to tell you what you can do with trees on your property?
Typical hypothetical.

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If the developers were smart they would pledge a substantial amount of money ($10,000) to plant/maintain new shade trees in other parts of the city (they can write it off).
Mother Earth gets awholelotta needed trees, and the City gets six new overpriced condos, that it evidently needs.
Everybody wins, except the whiners, who are impossible to please no matter what you do.

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But considering:

Matt Shuman, one of the residents fighting to save the tree, says the BPDA discovered the plans Sirotin is using are not the ones he initially submitted to the city.

It sounds like this developer is a chump looking to get in, build some bottom barrel shit as quickly as possible, get it inspected as little as possible less the deception be discovered, and fuck off with his money.

Tree or no tree, if you're discovered building something that's NOT what you were approved for, the city should come down on you like a pile of bricks. That is a major breech of trust and shows you don't give a shit about rules or anything but money. Which is really concerning because then how is there any guarantee you care about code, which is a basic minimum safety standard??

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NYC does something similar called the Tree Fund, and it’s a great idea. Their costs are a little more reasonable, I think $2,500 per planted tree if I remember correctly. The issue is here you’ll have the neighbors complaining that they won’t benefit from the new trees planted in other parts of the city at the cost of trees removed from the plot. I guarantee it.

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One reason developers cut down trees is because it's easier and therefore cheaper to get heavy equipment in and out and lay down utilities.
Trees help with climate change which if you having noticed is getting pretty serious. Adding oxygen, cooling effect, assisting with stormwater, etc...
Letting developers getting away with promises verbal or not is getting really old and needs to stop. Developers lying to line their pockets is not ok.
Letting developers renege on one tree, leads to 6 trees being cut down, 12 trees and so on and so forth. Sending a message that planning authorities and public opposition will not bend because it's "just one tree" is important.

This is all pretty basic stuff, folks. It's not rocket science as they say.

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They should require all developments to plant so many trees based on the square footage of living space and for every parking spot or bike rack. If they cannot accommodate this on their property, they should be required to plant trees on public space or their other properties. With all the development in the past 25 years Boston would look like the enchanted forest.

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"Matt Shuman, one of the residents fighting to save the tree, says the BPDA discovered the plans Sirotin is using are not the ones he initially submitted to the city."

I would LOVE someone to research how often this happens, because it seems to happen a LOT. We most definitely need more housing, but that does not mean we should allow people to build something different than what was approved.

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Any reason Matt Shuman dosen't buy the tree (I'm sure he could get for a song) and move it?

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Boston, where everybody else beside the owner gets to decide what to do with their property.

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The comments are seemingly more interesting than the original issue.

I'm all for more housing. But if you street view the area - you almost can't see the houses due to the old growth trees. But you look at the rendering and you have one tree that, in 30 years, might look nice. (and the rendering doesn't seem to have this handicap ramp he insists has to go in). The issue is more the swapping plans with the standard 'do what i want and ask forgiveness later'.

Everyone wants to live on a nice tree-lined street. Why be in such a rush to kill one of your major selling points?

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