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Following environmental uproar, Boston councilors want to talk about Melnea Cass plan

The city previously said it had to remove the trees as part of a redesign that seeks to create a “more pedestrian-friendly” boulevard, one safer to cross and easier to navigate by bicycle, with slower traffic and more flood protections.
The city previously said it had to remove the trees as part of a redesign that seeks to create a “more pedestrian-friendly” boulevard, one safer to cross and easier to navigate by bicycle, with slower traffic and more flood protections.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Boston city councilors want to take a look at a redesign plan for Melnea Cass Boulevard, following community uproar over the prospective removal of 124 mature trees that line the thoroughfare.

Councilors Kim Janey and Julia Mejia want a hearing to look at strategies to improve safety while preserving the mature trees along the corridor, which was named after a prominent civil rights activist.

“It is critical to ensure that the next plan does not compound the decades of redlining and structural racism that have left communities like Roxbury and the South End vulnerable to the inequities of urban planning/development,” read their hearing order.

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Earlier this month, city officials appeared to back down from a controversial plan to cut down about a quarter of the mature trees lining the boulevard in Roxbury, following pushback from the state attorney general’s office and activists who denounced the move as environmental racism.

A city spokeswoman said Boston is listening to neighborhood residents and will not cut down the trees, which include oaks, lindens, and maples, before reconsidering the potential effects on the community. That statement came a day after a bureau chief in the attorney general’s office sent the city a three-page letter outlining the environmental and health benefits of trees in urban spaces.

The city previously said it had to remove the trees as part of a redesign that seeks to create a “more pedestrian-friendly” boulevard, one safer to cross and easier to navigate by bicycle, with slower traffic and more flood protections.

Janey and Mejia, in their hearing order, said the plan to remove a large number of trees “is a cause of grave concern due to the fact that the removal of such trees will increase the disparate impact from extreme heat urban communities like Roxbury and the South End already face.”

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The councilors want to review the current plan to make sure it has included a thorough community process and promoted racial and environmental justice. They want officials from the Boston Planning & Development Agency and the city’s transportation and parks and recreation departments to be invited to testify at such a hearing.

The matter is scheduled to be discussed at Wednesday’s council meeting.

Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.