Critics Say Boston Tree Removal Plan Reflects Environmental Racism

A road project in Boston involves removing hundreds of mature trees. Residents say the plan is an environmental justice issue.

1 minute read

August 28, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Vitaliy Krasovskiy / Shutterstock

A plan for a complete streets redesign of a roadway in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston includes wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and improved bus stops. But it also involves cutting down scores of trees that run along the boulevard and could eventually threaten up to 500 mature trees.

"The rows of oaks, lindens, maples, and other trees that line Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury have for decades provided vital shade, fresh air, and a leafy balance to a city corridor that can feel like a furnace in summer and a windswept tarmac in winter," reports David Abel.

More than 90 percent of Roxbury’s residents are people of color, and critics of the plan say that the trees provide essential shade and cover in an area experiencing extreme heat. They argue that removing the trees amounts to environmental racism.

The city says removal of the trees is necessary for the design of the road. A plan to replant in the area would replace the trees, but the saplings could take decades to reach maturity.

"Given the steadily rising temperatures from global warming — last month was tied for the second hottest July on record, following July 2019, the hottest month on record — critics of the project said the city should revise the construction plan to preserve far more trees," notes Abel.

Sunday, August 23, 2020 in The Boston Globe

stack of books

Planetizen’s Top Planning Books of 2023

The world is changing, and planning with it.

November 24, 2023 - Planetizen Team

Close-up of 'Red Line Subway Entry' sign with Braille below and train logo above text in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Red Line Extension Could Transform the South Side

The city’s transit agency is undertaking its biggest expansion ever to finally bring rail to the South Side.

November 24, 2023 - The Architect's Newspaper

Diagram of visibility at urban intersection.

How ‘Daylighting’ Intersections Can Save Lives

Eliminating visual obstructions can make intersections safer for all users.

November 27, 2023 - Strong Towns

People walking on paved path in green city park with trees and tall city skyscrapers in background.

Green Spaces Benefit Neighborhoods—When Residents can Reach Them

A study comparing green space and walkability scores found that, without effective access to local parks, residents of greener neighborhoods don’t reap the health benefits.

7 hours ago - American Heart Association News

Aerial view of Eugene, Oregon at dusk with mountains in background.

Eugene Ends Parking Minimums

In a move that complies with a state law aimed at reducing transportation emissions, Eugene amended its parking rules to eliminate minimum requirements and set maximum parking lot sizes.

December 3 - NBC 16

White, blue, and red Chicago transit bus at an urban bus station with shelter.

Chicago Announces ‘Better Streets for Buses’ Plan

The plan establishes a ‘toolkit’ of improvements to make the bus riding experience more reliable, comfortable, and accessible.

December 3 - City of Chicago

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.