72 Hyde Park Avenue Oak Tree looks set to be saved

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

An old Oak Tree at 72 Hyde Park Avenue was threatened to be removed due to development last summer, but now, after significant community outreach, the tree will seemingly be saved.

The 72 Hyde Park Avenue Tree saga stems from a project approved by the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) in the summer of 2022 that would bring six housing units to the property.

A year later, in August 2023, the project—which had been subject to Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) design review—was set to break ground, and that is when issues arose.

A resident noticed last August that, while preparing for construction, a tree removal company was on the property, and they were told to leave. The issue was that this resident and others were under the impression that the tree was staying.

Specifically, Matt Shuman, a resident involved in the movement to save the tree, claimed to the Gazette last year that the developer, Vladimir Sirotin of M.I.R Realty, committed to preserving the tree in the spring of 2022.

It should be noted that Sirotin told the Gazette last summer that in early conversations about the project, there was an intention to keep the tree “if feasible.”

Moreover, Sirotin told the Gazette last year that the tree was unable to be saved due to the need for a stormwater management system where the tree stood and provided testimony from a professional engineer that gave reasons why the tree could not be saved, such as safety, excavation damaging the roots and more.

Sirotin also acknowledged last summer that an effort was made to keep the tree but said, “Sadly, the conclusion remained unchanged.”

A community meeting last September seemed to be the final nail in the oak tree’s coffin, to the point that Shuman told the Gazette he had given up.

However, everything changed after the BPDA issued a statement to the community last September, which indicated that not only was the agency under the impression that the tree was staying, but the plans they approved during the design review suggested that the tree would remain on the property.

The BPDA statement also said that the BPDA had requested the revised plans for the project and would be reviewing them, which prompted Shuman to rally residents to send emails to the agency asking it to preserve the tree.

Fast-forward to now, the rally of more than 250 emails to the BPDA seems to have worked. New plans submitted dated March 10th show multiple renderings of the tree intact as part of the project.

In correspondence with Sirotin through email, he confirmed to the Gazette that the new plan preserves the tree.

Sirotin explained that last November, he and his team met with a licensed arborist who determined that the tree was around 80-90 years old and in good health.

The arborist is slated to oversee the tree’s health during and after construction to ensure its survival.

“The arborist assured us that with proper fertilization and pruning of the tree, it will be able to survive and live for many years to come,” wrote Sirotin.

The preservation of the tree did not come without cost for Sirotin, as he mentioned that the proposed building’s depth and width were sacrificed along with the rear decks.

“I would like to reiterate that even though we had a building permit and could go ahead and legally build, we have decided against it at a major financial and time cost. We understood the emotional attachment the tree has within the neighborhood and saw its value as well,” wrote Sirotin.

The new plans have left residents like Shuman excited about the preservation of the tree. “I’m excited, I’m optimistic, and I have every reason to believe that the tree will be preserved,” said Shuman.

“I just think that is a tremendous benefit for our community and for the future of our community,” he added.

Caterina Scaramelli, another resident who has been heavily involved in the movement to preserve the tree, emailed the Gazette with her thoughts on the new plans.

“With the new proposed project, I am so happy to see Hyde Park Avenue getting the kind of good quality high-density housing we desperately need in Boston, especially for transit corridors and hubs like Forest Hills,” she wrote.

“Housing should be built alongside preserving older trees and planting new ones (especially native species that can thrive in an urban environment, and with clear plans to help these trees survive to maturity), as we also need to maintain air quality, mitigate heat island effects, and help absorb stormwater,” she added.

With new plans submitted, the focus turns to a ZBA Hearing on April 30th at 11:00 a.m., where Shuman and Scaramelli are urging residents to attend to ensure that the plans maintain the tree and are approved.

“It’s important for residents to attend public meetings on issues that affect their neighborhoods, to bear witness to promises made, and to be supportive of development that can balance our current housing and environmental crises—something that’s really not easy to do,” wrote Scaramelli.

“There is already a large group of Jamaica Plain neighbors who committed to attending the variances meeting on April 30 with the intention of supporting the new tree-friendly design and keeping note of exactly how measures will be taken to protect the tree from damage in the construction phase,” she added.

Those interested in attending the ZBA hearing can visit https://www.boston.gov/public-notices/16160776 for information on how to attend.

“I hope to see the story of 72 Hyde Park become a lesson for residents, developers, and city officials and for Boston to have its own tree ordinance to help promote green development while also preserving the urban trees we already have,” wrote Scaramelli.

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