Tag Archives: trees

The giving tree (3)

There's hope

After neighborhood residents (and concerned citizens from across the City) expressed shock and dismay about recent tree fellings downtown (see the previous posts here and here), the Mayor’s office has promised a new process will be implemented for tree removal. Until the process is in place, in the interim no tree can be cut down within the City limits without prior approval of the deputy directors of both the Horticulture and Streets and Sanitation Departments. This is certainly a step in the right direction for more transparency and accountability when it comes to chopping down trees.

For anyone who is interested, the public is invited to attend the next meeting of the Birmingham Planning Commission, Wednesday December 1 at 8:30 AM in City Council Chambers, City Hall. This should be a chance to make your voice heard on this issue.

[Thanks to Terry McComb for the 20th Street pic]

The giving tree (2)

Via dolorosa

And then there were three. Above is the horrible picture of another perfectly healthy, mature oak tree being torn down on 23rd Street North by the Public Works department (see our previous post here for Part 1). Note the anguished downtown resident begging the workman to stop; the workman of course had to follow orders. We do understand that Public Works employees, off the record, have stated they saw no good reason why healthy 35-year oaks needed to come down.

The grim remains

I urge anyone who’s moved by this arbitrary decimation of an essential urban asset to contact the Mayor’s office and your City Council person, to demand that an orderly process be reinstated at the City, whereby Public Works must communicate with Planning and City Landscape Architects before making decisions about removing trees. Right now that communication isn’t there.

35 years of planning and nurturing--felled in a week's time

Above you see the now completely denuded half-block in front of  Baldone’s Tailor shop. The fact that this is a west-facing elevation makes this all the more tragic.

I sincerely hope that the Mayor and Council will recognize this as an immediate problem that needs solving. Downtown residents, visitors, and flaneurs aren’t happy. People who care about planning and urban landscape aren’t happy. A little bit of intra-departmental communication could go a long way toward increasing transparency and rebuilding trust. Here’s hoping.

The giving tree

Murderous

Recently around the corner  (at 2nd Avenue and 23rd Street North), two street oak trees were summarily razed by the City without warning. Their raw stumps may be seen above, surrounded by fresh concrete poured under a City sidewalk initiative. The trees appear to be about 35 years old if you count the rings.

What they used to look like

Above you see the next tree moving south down 23rd St., which is exactly what the fallen two looked like. Why were two healthy trees axed? Who makes these decisions? Many of us in the neighborhood are pretty upset since, of course, we feel like the trees are the community’s.

I’ve heard that Mr. Baldone, owner of the 2-story building at the corner and the eponymous tailor shop, requested the trees be torn down because they were making his gutters too hard to clean. Whether this is correct or not is beside the point; what is troubling is that there appears to be no proper coordination at the City regarding such requests. I understand after talking to sources at the City that essentially the Public Works Department does not speak with the Planning Department, so the guys deciding to cut trees down (Public Works) are doing so without the knowledge of the guys who designed and installed them (Planning and Horticulture). A call placed to Horticulture confirmed this sad fact: the staff person fielding the call could only say “we plant the trees, we don’t tear them down” but could offer no other explanation. Because he’s not privy to it.

Naked

A street that was a couple weeks ago beautifully shaded with nice mature trees now feels naked. This is a western exposure–smart idea to include shading devices like trees for comfort and energy savings. And this building front is not exactly lined with storefronts; a common complaint of shopkeepers downtown is that trees, for all their good intentions, excessively hide the stores.

In the best urban places with strong traditions of public space, one can find trees that are not only well-tended and considered an inalienable part of the cityscape, but are the correct species both for longevity and for height/bulk in relation to adjacent storefronts. They are properly pruned to provide visibility at the street while maintaining canopies to shield from sun and provide protection in rain. Witness Paris with its elegant plane trees:

Properly pruned and cared for

Regardless, if anyone has more information on the loss of these trees, or any insight into how the process could be more public, please share it with us. At the very least it would be nice if Public Works posted a “To be Cut” sign on the trunk a week in advance, to give people time to question/protest. The public needs to be reassured that all the work of the Planning Department can’t be quickly dispatched at the stroke of a Public Works’ employees’s pen, or at the lone behest of a single property owner. These trees give us shade, clean our air, and beautify our neighborhood. They deserve more respect.

We all know what happened in the end

[thanks to hansn for the Paris pic]